SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates defeating the Michigan State Spartans with his teammates September 17, 2011at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 31-13. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
Pitt will have its hands full against a Notre Dame team that has faced a tough schedule so far.
Notre Dame (1-2) already has close losses against South Florida and Michigan, but they still their matchup against the Pitt Panthers as the favorite after knocking off No. 15 Michigan State last week. That victory turned partially on an 89-yard kickoff return for touchdown by George Atkinson III and a well-placed 82-yard interception return by Robert Blanton. Those aren't necessarily the sorts of plays they can count on going forward. But they did a reasonable job against a tough offense (albeit one with a reeling offensive line) - Kirk Cousins threw for 329 yards, but he needed 53 attempts to do it.
Despite new head coach Todd Graham's "high-octane" reputation, Pitt doesn't have a tough offense, at least not yet. The 2-1 Panthers have a strong running game led by Ray Graham. But quarterback Tino Sunseri hasn't inspired much confidence, and one of his performances this year was a no-touchdown, two-interception effort against lowly Maine. The Panthers eked out a win in that one, and beat Buffalo in their season opener. But they lost to Iowa last week, 31-27. Pitt figures to have a tough time against a Notre Dame team that has played a much tougher schedule so far. The big news for the Panthers this week has been their impending move to the ACC, but for Pitt, this game should be a fairly big deal in itself.
Game date, time: 12:00 pm ET, Saturday, September 24
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV channel: ABC
Spread: Notre Dame favored by 7