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Notre Dame at Pitt Betting Odds & Pick: Can Panthers Defense Contain the Irish? (Oct. 24)

Notre Dame at Pitt Betting Odds & Pick: Can Panthers Defense Contain the Irish? (Oct. 24) article feature image

Joe Robbins/Getty Images. Pictured: Notre Dame QB Ian Book.

Notre Dame at Pitt Odds

Notre Dame Odds -9.5 [BET NOW]
Pitt Odds +9.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -455/+295 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 43.5 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

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It will be a battle in the trenches on Saturday in an ACC matchup between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0) and Pittsburgh Panthers (3-3).

The Irish have one of the best offensive lines in college football. Per Pro Football Focus, Notre Dame ranks in the top 10 in both pass and run blocking. That group will face a stiff challenge against a Pitt defensive front — also one of the best units in the country — that continues to exert its dominance on a weekly basis, forcing opponents to abandon the run altogether.

Below, we breakdown the matchup to evaluate who might have the advantage this weekend.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Through the first four games of 2019, which included a trip to then-No. 4 Georgia, Ian Book had thrown for just under 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2020, Book has only three passing touchdowns and is averaging less than 180 yards per game through the air.

This is not an indictment of Book, as his completion rate (61.7%) and yards per attempt (7.6) haven’t fallen much at all from last year. Instead, his decline in production speaks more to the talent — or lack thereof — available to him at receiver this season. Injuries to projected WR1 Kevin Austin and Northwestern transfer Bennett Skowronek haven’t helped. But moreover, there is also a lack of explosiveness amongst this group, as it has generated just five pass plays of 25 yards or more.

On the flip side, the Irish have been dominant on the ground, averaging 261 yards per contest and 5.87 yards per attempt with the duo of Kyren Williams and freshman Chris Tyree. But tough sledding could be ahead for Notre Dame on Saturday against a Pittsburgh run defense that is giving nothing away on the ground in 2020, allowing a nation-best 62 yards per game. Louisville’s Javian Hawkins found some success, rushing for 78 yards on 13 carries, but 75 of those yards came on a single play.

Pittsburgh Panthers

What is the health status of starting quarterback Kenny Pickett?

Pittsburgh’s game-week depth chart has the senior listed on the top line, but early indications are that former Arizona State transfer Joey Yellen will be filling in again.

Yellen was adequate in Pickett’s absence against Miami last weekend, throwing for 275 yards and a touchdown. But, Yellen also managed just 6.0 yards per attempt and failed to complete 50% of his passes. Of course, it doesn’t help any of Pitt’s quarterbacks that the Panthers lead the nation with 22 dropped passes.

The passing game needs to click for Pitt to find success on offense, as the rushing attack is one of the worst in the country, averaging just 2.89 yards per carry. Take out the season opener against Austin Peay, and that number drops to 2.6 yards per attempt after a season-low 22 rushing yards against Miami. It’s tough to see Pittsburgh generating much running room against a Notre Dame defense that ranks 12th overall against the run per PFF and ranks third in Stuff Rate.


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Betting Analysis & Pick

Neither team inspires much confidence from an offensive standpoint. Now add in Pittsburgh having a backup quarterback and possible precipitation in the forecast, and I will hesitantly side with the under despite a low total of 43 that makes this look like an NFL matchup.

The better play in my opinion is with the Panthers keeping it close here to cover the +10.5 spread. In losses to ACC opponents since Pat Narduzzi’s first season in 2015, Pittsburgh has lost by 10 points or more in just nine of 22 games (40%). So, this is a team that is mostly competitive in conference games. Notre Dame doesn’t have the offense to blow out average to above-average teams this season, and Pitt should be able to limit the impact of Williams with its dominant front.

Pick: Pittsburgh +10.5; Total under 43.

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