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Thursday, October 7, 2010
What to watch: Notre Dame, Week 6

By Brian Bennett

What to watch from Notre Dame in its game against Pittsburgh on Saturday in South Bend:

1. Stopping the run: The Irish did a great job against the run last week against Boston College, but Pittsburgh is a different challenge. Star tailback Dion Lewis burned them for 152 yards and two scores last year, and while Lewis has struggled, backup Ray Graham is now the nation's third-leading rusher. Everything Pitt does is based around the power running game. Still, the Panthers' offensive line has scuffled and was reshuffled before the last game. If Notre Dame can stop Lewis and Graham from picking up big chunks of yards, the game will basically be over.

2. Slowing the pass rush: Pittsburgh loves to bring heavy pressure using only its front four, though it has blitzed more often this year. Star defensive end Greg Romeus is out after back surgery, but senior Jabaal Sheard is still a force at the other end spot, and the Panthers have some speed rushers like Brandon Lindsey who will test tackles Zack Martin and Taylor Dever.

3. Spreading Pitt thin: Brian Kelly outschemed Dave Wannstedt the past two years in the Big East on his way to the league title, and Wannstedt's team will be facing one of its Achilles' heels: the spread offense. Pitt moved Dom DeCicco down from safety to linebacker to try and improve its pass coverage. But the fact remains that if Notre Dame can get Theo Riddick or Kyle Rudolph matched up against the Panthers' linebackers, that's an extremely advantageous situation. They key will be for Dayne Crist to make quick decisions and get the ball out of his hand before the pass rush arrives.