Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 24, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 40 of 55 OCT. 24, 2020 41 coach Pat Narduzzi's reign has been similar to the one Steve Addazio had at Boston College in his seven years there from 2013-19. Both Narduzzi and Addazio de- veloped blue-collar physicality and toughness as the identities for their programs, and that regularly made them a tough out for the opposition. Addazio had only one losing sea- son at Boston College, but he also reached a plateau where the opera- tion couldn't get beyond seven wins. His year-by-year record was 7-6, 7-6, 3-9, 7-6, 7-6, 7-5 and 6-6 last season before he was fired. With Narduzzi, it's been similar, but the ceiling at Pitt has been eight wins: 8-5, 8-5, 5-7, 7-7, 8-5 and a 3-2 start this season before visiting Mi- ami Oct. 17. One difference has been Pitt's pro- pensity to pull off stunning upsets, or regularly achieving peak performance against the premier competition. • In 2016, it defeated Penn State — that year's Big Ten champion and Rose Bowl representative — 42-39, but it was only the second-most im- pressive conquest that season. • Two months later, it traveled to Death Valley and shocked No. 2 Clemson 43-42. It would be the Ti- gers' lone defeat that season while going on to win their first national title in 35 years. • In 2017, hobbling into the Nov. 24 finale with a 4-7 record, Pitt shocked 10-0 and No. 2-ranked Miami 24-14, snapping the Hurricanes' 15-game winning streak. Two weeks earlier, Miami had crushed No. 3-ranked Notre Dame 41-8. • In 2018, Pitt nearly upset the No. 5-ranked Irish before falling 19-14, but did topple a ranked Vir- ginia team that helped them make it to the ACC championship contest. • Last year, the Panthers rallied to end Central Florida's 27-game win- ning streak in the regular season with a 35-34 conquest — a team it had lost to by a 45-14 count in 2018. In the same way Purdue is often re- ferred to as "Spoilermakers" instead of their team nickname Boilermakers because of their history of upsets, Pitt likewise has had a knack for rising to the occasion against highly ranked opposition. That brings us to … NOTRE DAME AND 'UPSET SPECIALS' Unless Pitt wins at Miami Oct. 17, the Panthers will be unranked com- ing into the Notre Dame game. With a win over Louisville, the Irish would extend their current win- ning streak against unranked foes to 28, which is currently the second lon- gest to Alabama. It also is one short of the school-record 29 from 1990-94. That mark could be tied at Pitt — the one game on the schedule that was expected to give Notre Dame the most potential problems prior to the Nov. 7 showdown with Clemson. We anticipate a fair share of "upset special of the week" picks for Pitt against the Irish, particularly because it will be the first time Notre Dame travels this season. However, head coach Brian Kelly and Co., have been at their best the past several years in such contests: • Last year two of the most popu- lar upset specials were versus a Navy team in November that would fin- ish unbeaten and then the Camping World Bowl versus Iowa State be- cause of the perception that "Notre Dame doesn't really want to be there, while it's the biggest game ever for the Cyclones." The Irish easily dispatched both Navy (52-20) and Iowa State (33-9). • In 2018, it was Syracuse in Yan- kee Stadium. The Orange, who would finish No. 15, had nearly up- set Clemson, and was catching Notre Dame between FSU and USC. Final: Notre Dame 36, Syracuse 3 in its best all-around performance of the year. • In 2017 following a 49-14 blow- out of USC, a letdown was presumed inevitable the following week against a ranked North Carolina State team replete with future pros on defense. Instead, the Irish responded with a convincing 35-14 win. The more "upset specials" are brought up, the better we like Notre Dame's mindset going into the game. ✦ GAME PREVIEW: PITTSBURGH Under head coach Pat Narduzzi, the Panthers have developed a blue-collar mentality and dis- played a knack for pulling off stunning upsets against top-five foes. PHOTO BY CHARLES LECLAIRE, USA TODAY SPORTS Predictions Todd Burlage: Notre Dame 31, Pitt 20 Under any circumstances a matchup with Pitt can be worrisome to Irish faithful. The Panthers nearly spoiled each of the last two legitimate title runs for Notre Dame in 2012 and 2018, and seven of the last eight meetings between them were one-score games. Patrick Engel: Notre Dame 24, Pitt 10 Pitt's front seven may be the hardest barrier to break this season for Notre Dame's explo- sive running attack, save for Clemson. Notre Dame will earn every yard it gets. But Pitt's offense is too one-dimensional with not much upside. The Irish hit a late downfield shot that makes this a two-score game. Andrew Mentock: Notre Dame 33, Pitt 17 Pittsburgh always seems to play Notre Dame well, but this time the Fighting Irish won't need a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Ian Book to win. The offensive line will neutral- ize the Pitt pass rush to take an early lead, and from there stay in control of the game. Mike Singer: Notre Dame 24, Pitt 16 Pitt has proven to be a tough out this sea- son and has played in several low-scoring (by 2020 standards) slugfests. If NC State beat the Panthers at home by a point, there's no reason the Irish shouldn't be able to leave Heinz Field with a win. But it will be a close one. Lou Somogyi: Notre Dame 27, Pitt 17 My projection is if a good portion of the na- tion picks this as an "upset alert," which could happen, Notre Dame will then win by double digits. If not, then an upset is more likely to occur. Regardless, it is meant to be for Notre Dame and Clemson to meet in a mini-playoff as unbeaten top-five teams on Nov. 7.

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