Questions Notre Dame needs to answer to defeat Pittsburgh

Let’s be real here, Notre Dame is a much more talented team than Pittsburgh and should emerge with a victory on Saturday afternoon.

That doesn’t mean that the Irish will roll through this Panthers team, even if it feels like they should on paper. Unfortunately, that isn’t how college football works and these type of games can come back to bite the favorites if they don’t bring their A game.

As with every week, there are questions that the Irish will have to answer to come out with a win. For me, these are the most important one’s for Notre Dame this afternoon.

Will there be some bye week sluggishness?


The Irish needed last weeks bye, after a four-game stretch against top-25 opponents, it was well deserved. It’s very typical for teams to come out very sluggish following a bye, letting their opponent believe they can hang. If Notre Dame is able to come out firing on all cylinders, put this Pitt team in a hole, it could be a very long day for the visitors.

Will the focus be on this week?


If you couldn’t tell, the mental part of the game for the Irish is really sticking out to me this week. They have to be present in the moment, they can’t look ahead to Clemson next week, or else the Irish might get tripped up. Yeah, the Tigers don’t have a number next to their name, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a talented squad. Notre Dame can’t afford to look to next week, they need to beat Pitt first.

Will the elevation of Rico Flores spark this wide receiver unit?


Against USC, the Irish put up their second highest point total of the season, but did it with just 126 passing yards. That made it three of it’s last four games with under 250 yards through the air, after posting a season high of 330 against Central Michigan. Flores jumped Tobias Merriweather during the bye, as the coaching staff is searching for the right combination to reignite this passing offense. The question is will it be enough to get this unit moving in the right direction?

Which Sam Hartman will we see?


As noted above, the Irish passing offense has been inconsistent this season. Many expected it to be a strength with the experienced Hartman at the helm, but that hasn’t happened. It’s a bit odd to see him regress during the season, you’d expect that Hartman would have improved as the weeks turned due to being more familiar with the offense. He needs to get back on a roll, so the Irish offense can be explosive once again. We all want to see which Hartman will show up.

Will the offense have new wrinkles?


If you couldn’t tell, I’m not overtly concerned about how the Irish defense will handle Pitt’s offense. I feel like Notre Dame has a huge advantage in that department. It’s on offense where I have the most questions and coming off a bye week, this offense should come out with some new wrinkles. Getting a chance to self-scout and make adjustments should result in offensive coordinator Gerad Parker tweaking some things. This is the week the offense sets up for Clemson, and they need to show off some new wrinkles.

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Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire