Three Keys: Notre Dame-Pittsburgh

Three Keys: Notre Dame-Pittsburgh
November 8, 2013, 6:30 pm
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1. Neutralize Aaron Donald.

Donald leads the nation in tackles for a loss and is fourth in sacks, and Notre Dame offensive linemen described him this week as the smartest player they've ever faced. Even if Notre Dame continues to protect Tommy Rees well, as they've done all year, Donald could disrupt the run game and force Rees into throwing quite a bit. That's not the best recipe for offensive success, so whether it's designing runs away from Donald or double-teaming him all game, Notre Dame has to do something to minimize his effectiveness.

2. Don't turn the ball over.

This one hasn't been a key in recent Notre Dame-Pitt history -- in the last five games, only once (Notre Dame's 2010 win) has the team that won the turnover battle won the game. But those five games have all been decided by six points or less, and a late turnover could be a big enough momentum swing for Notre Dame or Pitt to ride to a win.

[RELATED: A year after 'miracle' win, Irish expect another nail-biter vs. Pitt

3. Stay healthy.

Notre Dame has depth, but it's been thinned out -- especially up front, with injuries to Ishaq Williams and Kona Schwenke. Sheldon Day (ankle) and Louis Nix (knee) are expected to play on Saturday, although both are banged up. Losing either of them puts Notre Dame in the danger zone in terms of defensive line depth. With so many players injured or banged up at other positions, Notre Dame may not be able to sustain another injury or two to a starter.

Prediction: Notre Dame 23, Pitt 20