Justin K. Aller
The Panthers are huge underdogs this weekend in South Bend, but the chance to pull off the upset is there.
The Pitt Panthers are finally playing some decent football, winning their last two games. But they'll roll into South Bend as heavy underdogs to face the resurgent Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
The Irish are finally "back" on the national scene. They are currently third in the BCS rankings and fourth in both the AP and coaches polls. Last weekend the Irish awoke the echoes after a dominating performance against the Oklahoma Sooners.
Pitt doesn't stand a chance, right? Not so fast, my friend (to borrow Corso's cliched line). After a rocky start to the season, the Panthers seem to finally be playing decent football. Tino Sunseri is finally coming into his own. The defense, while plagued by a myriad of injuries, is playing consistently. Devin Street is having a career year. The running back tandem of Ray Graham and Rushel Shell are proving to be a nice one-two punch when healthy. I've seen improvement under first year coach, Paul Chryst. But does this improvement mean the Panthers can beat the Irish? Not necessarily, though a combination of things must happen for the Panthers to win:
- First, we need to hope the Irish have a bit of a letdown after the huge win in Norman last week. If the Irish take Pitt lightly, even if it's just for a half, the Panthers could make them pay.
- Sunseri must continue his strong play. Tino has proved the doubters wrong this year (finally) and must continue to do so in a hostile environment.
- Pitt must hold its own in the trenches. Notre Dame's defense, especially the front seven, is a formidable outfit. The Pitt offensive line will need to keep Notre Dame and Manti Te'o at bay.
- Speaking of Manti Te'o, he'll need to be neutralized for Pitt to have a chance. Rarely do you see a defensive player getting all this attention, but it goes to show just how great Te'o is. He deserves the hype.
- Finally, Pitt will need a little bit of that Irish luck. To win a game against a good team on the road, you're going to need a bounce every now and then.