Pitt (2-2) at Notre Dame (2-3)
3:30 p.m., Saturday
TV/Radio: WPXI/93.7 FM
Favorite: Notre Dame by 6.5
Weather: mid-70s, sunny
Last meeting: Pitt defeated Notre Dame, 27-22, last season
Greg Romeus, DE, Back
Arthur Doakes, OL, Shoulder
Bryan Murphy, DL, Foot
Manny Williams, LB, Knee
Dion Lewis, RB, Upper Body
Official game notes
*** This will be Pitt’s first road game in more than a month, but coach Dave Wannstedt’s team looks a lot different than that trip to Salt Lake City. Since the 27-24 overtime loss at sold-out Utah in the Sept., 4 season opener, Pitt has changed starters at seven positions, including five on defense. Whether the change was due to injury or poor performance, nearly one-third of Pitt’s 22 starting spots feature a new face. The changes are right guard (Lucas Nix), right tackle (Jordan Gibbs), right defensive end (Brandon Lindsey), middle linebacker (Max Gruder), strong-side linebacker (Greg Williams), weak-side linebacker (Dom DeCicco) and strong safety (Jason Hendricks) didn’t start at those respective positions at Utah.
Of the seven “new” starters, four of them – Nix, Gruder, Williams and DeCicco — have merely changed positions. But this is a significantly different look from the last time Pit went on the road to play a spread offense.
Defensive end Greg Romeus (back) and middle linebacker Dan Mason (knee) are out with injuries, while Greg Gaskins, the starting right guard against Utah, was benched in favor of Gibbs, a 6-7, 305-pound road grader.
I think all of the changes – save for Romeus’ absence – make Pitt an improved team against a spread offense. The linebacker corps, with Gruder instead of Mason in the middle, is better suited for a pass-happy spread attack. And adding DeCicco to the linebacker group (whether he’s a nickel back or a hybrid linebacker is semantics – he’s a weak-side linebacker) and putting Hendricks at strong safety is a vast improvement.
On the offense, if Dion Lewis starts ripping off 10-yard runs against the Fighting Irish, we will be able to say pretty safely that the re-shuffling of the offensive line is working.
*** One player to watch out for is Notre Dame junior Kyle Rudolph, the All-America tight end. He missed last year’s Notre Dame-Pitt game with a shoulder injury. Against Michigan last month, Rudolph had a 95-yard touchdown reception, the second-longest in Irish history. So, obviously, the 6-6, 260-pounder can move well. Pitt, which started playing football in 1890, has never had a touchdown – pass, run or catch — longer than 91 yards.