Notre Dame is a really good football team this year. They have a rock solid defense, an excellent coach and a capable running game. They turned in an awesome performance last week against then #8 ranked Oklahoma in Norman, beating the Sooners 30-13.
Fighting Irish fans are excited about their football team again, the BCS bowls are excited about the chance of having Notre Dame play in their bowl game, and apparently Las Vegas is getting in on the hype as they have made Notre Dame a 17 point favorite over Pitt this week, the highest point spread of the season so far for the Irish.
But I don’t think Notre Dame covers this number Saturday against a pretty good Pitt team. First of all, this Notre Dame team isn’t “built” to cover DD spreads. In eight games the Irish have only managed to score more than 20 points on three occasions, and two of those were against defenses that are not as good as Pitt’s (Navy & Miami). It is just asking a lot for a team that averages 24 ppg vs BCS competition to cover a 17 point spread.
Secondly, this is a classic letdown spot for the Irish. I really don’t put too much emphasis on those type of trends when I handicap a game, but I do like having that intangible in my favor. Perhaps a better way to put it would be to say that only a few of Notre Dame’s wins this year have been of the “dominating” variety, and now they are being asked to cover 2 TDs and a FG after having just played their best game of the season.
One last point to consider, from a statistical perspective, Pitt QB Tino Sunseri will be the best QB the Irish have seen all season. His pass efficiency rating is higher than OU’s Landry Jones and I also think Pitt’s running game is better than the Sooners (who gained 15 yards on 24 carries last week). Will Pitt and Sunseri struggle against a good Notre Dame defense? Absolutely, but they’ll also have some success and score some points.
So unless you think Notre Dame is going to shut out a pretty good Pitt offense, and/or you think the Irish offense is all of a sudden going to “get on track” against a decent Pitt defense, I don’t see Notre Dame scoring enough points here to cover a 17 point spread.
Notre Dame 24 Pitt 13
Make sure to check out The Saturday Edge website and follow them on Twitter @SaturdayEdge. It’s a great site where college football handicapping enthusiasts can exchange useful betting strategies, tips, ideas and information. They have great football analysis and are also a great place to go if you want to read up on betting or get some advice. You can also sign up for their newsletter at their site. So far they have hit on their “best bet” predictions for Oregon State/Wisconsin, Nebraska/Southern Miss, Colorado St/Utah St, Colorado/UCLA, and Michigan/Purdue.