The Notre Dame Football team is coming off a major victory this past Saturday over Oklahoma on the road, solidifying the Irish position inside the Top Five of the BCS. Notre Dame is riding an emotional high after the win, but the team must temper their emotions as they prepare to host a resurgent Pittsburgh team this coming Saturday.
Notre Dame now has a bull’s-eye on its back with its confirmed national ranking. Prior to Oklahoma it was unclear if this Irish team was legitimate; the big win against the Sooners proved they are.
The Irish found some offensive success against a talented Sooners defense, but they still have a ways to go before it is a BCS worthy offensive unit. The defense continues to grow stronger by the week, bringing impressive performances to the field consistently.
With that in mind, Pitt can still pose a concern for the Irish.
A Look at Pittsburgh
This is a Panthers team that started the season with an embarrassing loss to Youngstown State 31-17 at home. They followed that up with another big loss to Cincinnati, and the Panthers have dropped games to Louisville and Syracuse as well this fall.
The Panthers do have a win against Virginia Tech to their credit, as well as a 47-17 drubbing of Temple this past Saturday.
Tino Sunseri had a great game for the Panthers Saturday passing for 321 yards and tossing three touchdowns. Sunseri now has 2,199 yards and 13 touchdown tosses on the season. He has only thrown two interceptions.
Ray Graham also had a huge day on the ground, rushing for his second 100 yard game of the season finishing with 109 rushing yards.
This game saw Pitt rebuild an offense. The Panthers did score 55 points against Gardner-Webb, but that should happen. Against FBS competition their highest points total was 35 prior to the Temple game.
This was also the first Big East win for Pittsburgh, earning the Panthers a 1-3 mark in the conference so far this season.
This Pitt team is playing just as inspired as the Irish. They are starting to win ballgames and can be very dangerous giant killers if Notre Dame doesn’t take notice. This should be an easy win for Notre Dame, but it may not be.
How Notre Dame Battles the Letdown
Avoiding big letdowns when the rise to the top has been skyrocket fast is difficult at times. This Notre Dame team is not used to being in this type of situation. Focus has to be at a maximum for this squad.
Brian Kelly has to make sure that his team stays grounded and takes each game in stride. The Irish can’t look at the Panthers' record and assume that this game will be easy. Tino Sunseri will do his best to light up the Notre Dame secondary and earn his Panthers another upset win.
The Panthers have fielded a decent defense as well this year, working to the No. 29 pass defense and the No. 42 rushing defense in the country.
The Notre Dame offense may have early struggles in this game. If they do, they have to maintain composure and not try to force plays. Often teams with quick success try to change their style to match their results—Notre Dame needs to play the football that got it here.
If the Irish can keep focused and fight the urge to force big plays, they will avoid a major letdown against Pitt. Even at 4-4, this Panthers' team is one of the most dangerous opponents that remains on the Notre Dame schedule.