By Richard Hefner
Pitt lost its third in a row last Saturday to Miami 19-31. That brings Pitts record to 3-3 (2-3 conference). Our next opponent, Notre Dame is coming off a barnburner of a game, that eventuality saw the Golden Domers emerge with a 12-7 victory over the Louisville Cardinals. The Fighting Irish are now 4-0 (3-0 in conference.) Touchdown Jesus and all Irish fans are gunning for a victory to keep their dreams of their first conference championship and a CFP berth that does not include a mythical girlfriend. (Those catfishing jokes never get old).
The game will be played at Heinz Field. It is scheduled to start at 3:30pm & shown on your local ABC station. Pitt will be playing in front of a home crowd of approximately 5,500 rabid fans (350 favoring Pitt & 5,150 Irish (subway) faithful, as we know from past experiences home games against WVcc, Psux and ND are away team sellouts).
Last week when I sent my Miami review to Mike, I made this statement in the email body:
Not sure if I will do something on Notre Dame. Never liked them, don’t watch them, don’t stats them, don’t care about them and I was raised catholic.
Quit rolling your eyes. At least these articles allow you to make comments from your cell phone without scrolling through 100+ comments. But I changed my mind & emailed Mike:
Now thinking about writing an article on Notre Dame. I will be taking a more stats orientated approach.
Probably will take same approach for the balance of schedule. With data from games played, my old approach means less.
Brian Kelly is the head coach of Notre Dame. According to USA Today he makes $1,863,893. What a deal. Way Underpaid. How can Narduzzi make so much more?
Until you read the USA Today methodology.
From the “Notes” section:
NOTRE DAME: School’s tax records state that Kelly is permitted to receive compensation from external sources with prior written approval from the university.
Why did I bring this up? Because it puts more context into a nice but flawed USA Today report. Data & stats are good if explained, used correctly & in context. I hope to do that below without being wordy & over explanatory.
I am doing away with the ND recruiting data. I will just say it is good, not Clemson good but better than Miami good.
I do not have any transfer portal activity for ND. When I started, I only kept data on the 14 ACC teams. As I emailed Mike, I do not do ND. So, I never went back & reconstructed ND as they wormed their way into the ACC.
I do have some data on potential “Stars”. But it is only from Pro Football Focus (PFF) 2020 ACC preseason teams & two names on the preseason ALL ACC team. They are shown In Bold.
Obviously, the strength is in the O-Line. Per PFF, Five of PFF’s top 15 ACC O-Linemen are from ND.
I have an observation: Bill Hillgrove may have some pronunciation problems.
And I have a question: Robert Hainsey & Josh Logg (Hainsey’s backup) are from Western PA. Will the local Pittsburgh sports reporters interview them and ask how many times they turned down Pitt?
With a O-Line like ND has, you would expect a dominant rushing attack. Here is a chart of ND’s leading rushers.
Here is another chart comparing team offense production (ND v. Pitt):
Note: Rushing data includes sacks and sacks allowed & the resulting negative yardage.
I should have mentioned but most stats are from the NCAA site through 10/17/20 except for esoteric stats like “long Runs/receptions”. Those are from ESPN. Ranking are based on the 77 FBS teams that have played at least one game thru 10/17/2020.
While Pitt’s passing game is better (20’th of 77) the running game stinks (70’th of 77). Advantage ND.
Ian Book, the ND QB, is also on the “Stars” chart. How does he compare to either Kenny Pickett or Joey Yellen? I do not know the status of KP at this time. And for those readers who are always say “Those QB stats are inflated by the Austin Peay game, I removed AP & South Florida (1-4 with there only win over The Citadel (Guess who has relatives with connections to The Citadel? I have now worked my relatives into the 3’rd article in a row).
Make of it what you want. But it does show that I am not a Pitt “homer” in showing stats that only favor the home team.
The sign of a great offensive line is pass protection. How does Pitt/ND match up on sacks allowed.
Now here is a problem. Pitt has allowed 12 sacks. JY has been sacked 4 times for negative 40 yards. Is pocket presence as a passer worth the sacks/yardage & low completion %. Both should improve with time but if KP is ready to go what would you do – the future or wins now?
On defense, 4 ND players made the “Stars” list – A DE, 2 LB’s & a Safety. One of the linebackers & the safety made PFF’s first team. I originally thought it would be a matchup of preseason PFF #1 safeties, but Paris Ford only made the 2’nd team. (The other #1 was from FSU).
In ND’s wins, they held Duke (now 1- 5) to 13 points. They shutout South Florida (1-4, hurrah for The Citadel). Allowed 26 points to FSU (2-3) with an FSU 2’nd game QB starter. Finally, they held Louisville (1-4) to 7. As you are aware, offense is Louisville forte. The combined record of ND’s victims 5-16.
So, how does ND defense compare to Pitt?
It is a battle of ND strength (rushing) vs. Pitt’s strength (rushing defense). IMO, ND will be able to rush but not at the rate they are currently averaging. It may turn into a passing game. If that happens, it will be a battle of O-Line vs. D-line. I have already posted the O-Line stats for sacks allowed. This chart is for defense sacks:
Pitt wins the sack battle. Remember that Boston College had 4 O-Line “Stars” & Pitt was still able to get 6 sacks.
Here are my last two charts – Penalties & Turnovers.
Just some more data to take into consideration. For Pitt, it is obviously penalties that will stall offensive drives or extend opponents drives. Unless they are cleaned up. But we have been expecting that for weeks. So do not count on that happening.
I hope you enjoyed the new format. Let me know what you think & any improvements I can make. Do not say better writing. Like Pitt’s penalties do not count on that to happen.
If KP plays Pitt 20 – ND 13. If JY plays Pitt 9 – ND 13.