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Game Day: No. 4 Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

Nov 3, 2012, 11:35 AM EST

Everett Golson Getty Images

Another Saturday, another opportunity for No. 4 Notre Dame to continue winning, and potentially convert some doubters on he way. With the Irish robust favorites this afternoon with the line set at 17-points, the Notre Dame offense needs to build on its efficiency against Oklahoma while the defense needs to continue dominating.

We’ll be live-blogging and answering your questions in the NBC Sports video player, but until then, let’s run through a few final items before this afternoon’s kickoff.

Which Everett Golson will show up? Will it be the one that’s played like a savvy veteran on the road or the young and inexperienced quarterback that’s tried to do too much inside Notre Dame Stadium.

At this point, you’d expect Golson’s momentum from Oklahoma to carry over, but until you see it happen you can just wait and see.

Can this football team play better at home? One of the interesting items to follow this week was Brian Kelly talking about playing better at home. While not necessarily tip-toeing around the issue, Kelly has tweaked the pep rally time, and continued to work to make the team’s pregame routine more conducive to playing well.

“We want to make sure that Friday and Saturday is not the Super Bowl,” Kelly said. “Parents asking for tickets. I was here two weeks ago and we had two or three players giving tours of the Gug. We just have to kind of bring that in a little bit. We’ve looked at our schedule, for example, we’ve moved up the pep rally an hour. Our team will go in and get to the hotel an hour earlier, just to have some more time and some down time. We’re looking at how we condense the 48 hours a little more to have some down time.

“It’s been educational for me, too. I’ve gone back and forth with the different routines. Here’s what’s not going away: the pep rally’s not going away, the mass is not going away, the walk’s not going away. So how do you manage your day to give them that opportunity to be relaxed so they can be focused strictly on the football game? We’re still evolving there. No question, for me and the younger players, we’re starting to figure this out where we can come up with a  weekend so they’re not so distracted.”

With a full allotment of running backs, can the Irish utilize all of them? George Atkinson will be back returning kicks and in the offensive backfield. Cierre Wood just ran for over 10 yards a carry against Oklahoma. And Theo Riddick iced the game with a physical touchdown run. Heck, Cam McDaniel has showed he’s a guy that needs to find his way onto the field as well.

Now the challenge will be for Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin to find roles for their stable of running backs and formulate a game plan that utilizes them to the best of their ability.

One item to watch: Can this staff break its own habit of type-casting and get the ball into the hands of Wood or Atkinson via pass instead of just relying on Riddick?

Can the defense make Tino Sunseri play less efficient football? It’s been a night and day change for Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, who played a mediocre junior season in Todd Graham’s speed offense and is now playing some of the nation’s most efficient football.

But the Irish defensive front is a tough match-up for Pitt’s offensive line, now short starting right guard Ryan Schlieper. Two inexperienced tackles and a back-up guard aren’t the best recipe for a defensive front that features Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, and while Sunseri has some decent mobility, he’ll be a target for a pass rush that could do some damage today. A few weeks ago Syracuse had five sacks. Earlier in the year they allowed six to Cincinnati. The Irish front seven is much better than those two units.

Will Tyler Eifert finally break out? There’s certainly no blaming Eifert for his production this season. And while his numbers aren’t as gaudy as the ones he put up during his junior season, he’s doing probably more now to impress NFL scouts than ever before.

Still, Eifert and Golson need to find some chemistry. And this afternoon is as good of time as any to start.

Will Notre Dame take care of business? Elite football teams put challengers like this in the ground quickly. If Notre Dame wants to live up to their No. 4 ranking, they need to win and do so with style points, so they can put comments like this to rest.

“My personal tiebreaker is that a conference championship game has to stand for something,” CBS’ Gary Danielson said earlier this week, not surprisingly stumping for the SEC. “I would penalize Notre Dame for not playing in a conference championship. So after Alabama, my first nod would be to Oregon, since its conference has earned respect, then Kansas State and only then Notre Dame.”

A few thousand words probably wouldn’t do this quote justice, so leaving it be is probably the best course of action.

But that’s the type of thing Notre Dame needs to battle. Because in case you didn’t realize it, a conference championship game is worth more than games against Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, and Western Carolina, a 1-8 team that’s winless in the Southern Conference.

  1. ndgoldandblue - Nov 3, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    Hey Keith. I’m picking up your sarcasm in the last paragraph.
    Keith: “Well, I should hope so. I’m laying it on pretty thick.”

  2. flandersst1 - Nov 3, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Hey Keith,
    If you get a minute before the game to think about this:
    I was thinking back to BK describing how he judged football players on a scale of 1-3. With 3 = ready to play Championship football, 2 = may be able to play championship football, and 1 = not ready to play championship football. After his first year, BK said there were 2 players on the roster who graded out as a 3. How many do you think we have now?

    Thanks,
    Steve in Pittsburgh
    Ironically, I am sitting in the computer lab at Pitt typing this – I did leave my ND gear at home before I came over.

  3. 818irish - Nov 3, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Protect the zero…

    GO IRISH!

  4. csilojohnson - Nov 3, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Why I’d there so much coverage p on Notre Dam? I don’t get it…

    • ndgoldandblue - Nov 3, 2012 at 1:11 PM

      What?

  5. irish9314 - Nov 3, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    We are ranked 3rd in the BCS. Why would you put we are ranked 4th? Am i missing something?

    • dudeacow - Nov 3, 2012 at 1:27 PM

      We are ranked 4th in the AP, the coaches, and the Harris poll.

      • irish9314 - Nov 3, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        I understand that but the BVD is the official ranking, which is what matters when all the dust settles. Just think 3 sounds better than 4. :)

      • bernhtp - Nov 3, 2012 at 1:52 PM

        We are #3 in the only ranking that counts right now, the BCS.

  6. mtflsmitty - Nov 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Just trying to be objective…As much as it pains me to say so, conference championships do mean something. How much they mean depends on the teams playing.

    I love our football independence. But the lack of a high quality opponent in that last week is a big leg up in the BCS model. USC in LA is a great finish for us. But these next three are a major gap in our schedule.

    Let’s just win out, enjoy, and let the rest of the college football world sort itself out.

    • discnerd - Nov 3, 2012 at 2:12 PM

      The conference championships only mean one more data point to the computer algorithms. It’s only the human polls that cause issues by over-weighting the outcomes of those games. Yes, the computer rankings are a little crazy when teams have only played 6 games, but they get better as more games are played and react better to a team playing at their level (losing to a team that you are supposed to lose to doesn’t hurt you nearly as much) than the human polls that stay with last-weeks results unless a team lost. This rewards teams for playing cupcakes. (Pick you favorite example.)

      If we chuck the human polls from the BCS and keep all the computer polls, ND edges out K State for #1 because Bama’s early schedule is laughable. Bama will make up ground if they win the next two weeks, but as of last Sunday ND has put together the best season in college football. We’ll see where we sit in December after all the pre-bowl games have been played.

      The human polls are decent estimates of who the good teams are at the beginning of the season, but based on how wrong they are as the season progresses and how biased they are based on who is filling them out, why do we use them to pick the teams for the Championship game? It’s not going to be any better with the playoff. We’ll only be arguing about 4-5 instead of 2-3. (Think March Madness selection bubble teams.)

  7. jgater1981 - Nov 3, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    @csilojohnson, I have no idea what it is you just typed.

  8. boyshole25 - Nov 3, 2012 at 7:30 PM

    Danielson is on the money you domer

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