The 14th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET), looking to stay hot following a momentous victory over USC.
A majority of public money continues to pour in on the Fighting Irish, who have gone from 16.5- to 20.5-point (-110) favorites since college football betting lines opened. The Fighting Irish are also -1400 on the moneyline. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is +20.5 (-110) on the spread and +820 to pull off the upset. The projected total is 44.5 (-110 Over, -110 Under), down from 47.5.
Will the Fighting Irish take care of business at home? Let’s break down the odds in our Pittsburgh vs Notre Dame preview.
Location: Notre Dame Stadium; South Bend, Ind.
The Pittsburgh Panthers are 1-5 against the spread over their last six games and 2-5 on the NCAAF season. The total has gone Over in nine of Pittsburgh’s last 11 games. Conversely, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 5-2-1 ATS this year and 6-2-1 over their last nine games. The total has gone Over in 11 of Notre Dame’s last 15 games, including six of the last seven at home. That’s important to remember when assessing the odds in our Pittsburgh vs Notre Dame preview.
Rested and Ready After Bye
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are coming off a bye. Prior to that, they knocked off No. 10 USC 48-20 on Oct. 14 to move to 6-2 on the season. A 3-point favorite, the Fighting Irish also covered the spread for the second time in three weeks.
Having lost to both Ohio State and Louisville, Notre Dame (+20000 to win the national championship) is essentially already out of the mix for the College Football Playoff despite being ranked No. 14 in the AP Top 25 poll. But the Fighting Irish still have plenty to play for over the season’s final month, starting Saturday. The Fighting Irish need to go no worse than 3-1 over their final four games to surpass their projected win total of 8.5.
Sam Hartman remains the catalyst of Notre Dame’s offense, with 18 touchdown passes and just three interceptions on the season. Notably, all of those interceptions came in the Fighting Irish’s 33-20 loss to Louisville. While his Heisman Trophy odds have dropped to +8000, he’s coming off an efficient performance against USC: 13 of 20, 126 yards, two touchdowns.
The Fighting Irish are ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring, averaging 35.9 points per game. But they’d scored just 48 points over three games prior to their beatdown of USC. Junior Audric Estime ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns, his highest rushing output since a 41-17 victory over Central Michigan on Sept. 16. His 787 rushing yards for the season put him 11th in the NCAAF rankings.
Also, don’t overlook the Fighting Irish’s defense, which is holding opponents to an average of 16.4 points.Keep that in mind when analyzing our Pittsburgh vs Notre Dame preview.
No Bite to These Panthers
Not much has gone according to plan for the Pittsburgh Panthers this season. Pittsburgh is now just 2-5, including 1-3 in ACC play, after falling 21-17 to Wake Forest on Saturday.
Sophomore Christian Veilleux played well, completing 28 of 45 passes for 302 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Still, the Panthers suffered their fourth loss in five college football games despite being a 2.5-point favorite.
Underperformance at quarterback has been a big reason for Pittsburgh’s struggles. Boston College transfer Phil Jurkovec, the Week 1 starter, completed just 50.9% of his passes over his first five appearances and was sacked 12 times. With no obvious solution to the Panthers’ struggles, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Jurkovec switched positions to tight end during the midseason bye. This is Jurkovec’s sixth collegiate season, following two years at Notre Dame and three years with Boston College.
Veilleux flashed his potential against Wake Forest, but the Panthers still have a ways to go to get back on track offensively. They rank toward the bottom of FBS in scoring, averaging 24.6 points per game. That’s last among ACC teams.
The Panthers were projected for 7.5 wins, but with only five regular-season games remaining, they already have no chance of hitting that total. Plus, they still face two more ranked opponents after Notre Dame in No. 4 Florida State (Nov. 4) and No. 20 Duke (Nov. 25).
Handicapping the Game
Pittsburgh is reeling, and there doesn’t appear to any quick fix in sight. Jurkovec’s midseason benching is all you need to know about the Panthers’ struggles. They’ve already lost to Cincinnati, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, teams with a combined record of 13-15.
Now they get the Fighting Irish, who are well-rested coming off a bye. On top of that, Notre Dame’s at home, where it’s 4-1 this season.
Pittsburgh may be able to keep this within three touchdowns, but that’s about it. The Fighting Irish are set up to win comfortably.