Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame: Breaking Down Each Team's Keys to Victory

Ryan DavenportContributor INovember 2, 2012

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 27:  Everett Golson #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish throws against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Norman, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

On Saturday, Notre Dame has the chance to do what no Fighting Irish team has done in nearly 20 years.

With a home win over the 4-4 Pittsburgh Panthers, the Irish will move to 9-0, which no Notre Dame squad has done since 1993.

More importantly, the Irish will remain in contention for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, which would be a shockingly positive outcome for a football program that fielded an 8-5 team a year ago.

Heading into Saturday's all-important game between the Irish and the Panthers, here are each team's keys to victory.


Notre Dame

Continued Dominance on Defense, Adequate Production on Offense

The biggest reason behind the Fighting Irish's stunning 8-0 start is the team's overwhelmingly stingy defense, which ranks second in the nation with just under 10 points allowed per game.

Last week, the Irish shut down one of the nation's top offenses, as they held Oklahoma to just 13 points en route to the team's fourth consecutive victory over a Top 25 opponent.  

In addition to continued excellence on the defensive side of the ball, Notre Dame needs a solid performance out of Everett Golson, because heading into Saturday, the Irish rank 97th in the nation in passing yards, which won't be good enough to get the team into national title contention. 

They don't need him to be the star, they just need him to do enough to get the team a win, which is what he's been doing all season long.



Force Turnovers, Take Advantage of Opportunities on Offense

Simply put, the Panthers must do what no team has been able to in 2012: score consistently on the Fighting Irish.

The only conceivable way that Pitt will be able to do that is to force turnovers in Irish territory, because through their first eight games, Notre Dame's defense has been utterly impenetrable.

And when the Panthers do get their few chances to get on the scoreboard, they have to take advantage of them, because touchdowns against the Irish don't come all that often.