College Football Picks: Notre Dame at Pitt Predictions, Betting Odds

Doc Moseman@DocsSportsCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2011

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Dayne Crist #10 talk during warmups prior to playing the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This is a very different preview than I would have written for this game just a week ago. Going into last week’s contest the Irish were reeling. They had lost two in a row, they had collapsed in horrifying fashion against Michigan, and they had problems all over the field. It was like the ghost of Charlie Weis was coaching them still. While they didn’t answer all of the questions surrounding them last time out, their decisive win over Michigan State certainly eased the panic felt by fans and analysts at least a little bit.

They still have work to do, but it’s a start.

Pitt, on the other hand, had a crushing week last week. It had beaten meaningless opponents in Buffalo and Maine early on, but had shown signs it was moving in the right direction under a new coach in those wins. The way the Panthers opened their game against Iowa last week made it look even more like they were on the right track and could test the Irish; they were up 27-10 in Iowa with 12 minutes left in the game before the Hawkeyes woke up and the Panthers curled up in a ball. Iowa mounted one of its biggest comebacks ever to win 31-27, and now Pitt is surrounded with uncomfortable questions and serious doubts.

Notre Dame at Pitt Betting Storylines

Coming into the last game, Notre Dame had issues at quarterback. Despite the win, it still does. Tommy Rees shows flashes of brilliance, and it’s hard to believe he isn’t the right choice when compared to Dayne Crist. Still, he has a bad habit of making terrible decisions at times.

It’s not that he panics under pressure—he led an incredible drive late in the Michigan game to take the lead. It’s just that sometimes he turns his brain off when he really can’t afford to. He was largely unimpressive against Michigan State. Luckily for him he should have an easier time of things here, as the Panthers are horrible against the pass, ranking 119th in the country at 336.3 yards per game. If Rees can’t torch this secondary, the Irish really have troubles.

While the Pitt defense is a concern, it’s the offense that new coach Todd Graham is really taking heat for. Graham came from Tulsa and he brought a very aggressive offense with him. It’s a high-risk, high-pace, no-huddle approach. When it works, it works great. The problem with it, though, is it’s very hard for the offense to slow things down and burn the clock when they need to.

That issue came to the forefront late in the Iowa game. The Panthers had a lead to protect, but they couldn’t protect it. That issue is going to have the crowd on edge and uncertain of their new man—especially since he wasn’t the first choice for the job. That’s not going to help the Panthers in this one.

While that’s an issue for Graham, he does have history on his side. Last year at Tulsa he pulled off a stunning upset of Notre Dame—the first win over a BCS conference team since 1996 for the Golden Hurricane. They knocked Dayne Crist out for the season, played very strong in the second half and picked off Tommy Rees in the end zone in the closing seconds. He’ll have that victory as a rallying point for his squad, and he’ll be in Brian Kelly’s head from the start.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Pitt Panthers College Football Odds and Trends

The game opened with Notre Dame favored by six points, according to college football odds, and it has been on the rise since. It quickly hit 6.5, and is now widely available at the key number of seven.

An overwhelming majority of bets have been placed on the Irish—by far the more public team—so there is no reason to believe the line is static where it is now. At the very least,  7.5 seems possible. The line opened at 53.5 and is in the same basic realm now.

These teams have met each of the last three years. Notre Dame won the last one, with Pitt winning two in a row before that. Each team has covered a spread, with the last game ending as a push. The last two games have gone ‘under’ the total.

Notre Dame is 6-2 ATS in their last eight road games. They have gone ‘under’ the total in six of their last eight games.

Notre Dame at Pitt Predictions and College Football Picks

There are a lot of reasons not to like the Irish, but it’s hard not to like them in this one. It’s not so much what they bring to the table as what Pitt has going against it.

The Panthers can’t play defense, especially against the pass. They are getting used to a new coaching staff and a new offensive system that is radically different. They are going to have serious confidence issues after their last performance, and they are going to struggle to move the ball on the ground.

Notre Dame is in the second year of its new coaching regime, so it has that big advantage, and the Irish should be far more suited to win this one. I think Notre Dame will win this game, and I’d happily take it at seven points.

The total is set well, and I don’t have a strong opinion, though I would lean to the ‘under.'

Doc’s Sports has earned three straight winning weeks for football picks. Find out more about his football weekend ahead, as well as more articles and previews.