The Pittsburgh Panthers are 3-3 this season, coming off a 44-37 victory over Syracuse. They've pulled major upsets over Top 5 teams in each of the last two seasons, defeating No. 3 Clemson in 2016 and No. 2 Miami last season, ending the Hurricanes' perfect season.
Pitt will face No. 5 Notre Dame on Saturday in South Bend. It will be the second time the Panthers have played the Irish under coach Pat Narduzzi, who also took on Notre Dame when he was the defensive coordinator at Michigan State. Narduzzi spoke to the media Monday and had some thoughts about the Irish, which expressed in an often humorous manner. Here are some of the highlights.
Narduzzi on all of the history at Notre Dame: "How about the history of Pittsburgh? We've got some great history here. Notre Dame is a great institution, great place. I'm Catholic, I love Notre Dame, but this is a football game. We're going to walk in there. It's a business trip. We're going to stay in the hotel, we're going to get them up in the morning, we're going to drive our bus to the stadium, we're going to get out, we're going to go through some cement walls to a locker room, and we're going to put our gear on and we're going to go out and go. I don't know if there's a difference (from other games). It's all about the football game. We're not going to go to the Basilica or go see Touchdown Jesus. We're not taking any tours. We're going to play a football game."
On Irish defensive lineman Jerry Tillery: "They've got some creatures out there. The Tillery kid is 6'7", 305 (pounds). He's a monster. They should probably have a new cartoon after that guy. You've got Superman, you've got ‘Tilleryman.’ That guy, he's a beast."
On Notre Dame and Ian Book: "I'm looking forward to Notre Dame, and when I say I'm looking forward, I don't know if I'm looking forward to playing the No. 5 team in the country because they're awful good. Maybe as good of a football team as you're going to see, that Notre Dame has ever had, I think. Now all of a sudden here we've got a guy named Book, the guy named Book. You're like, where did this guy come from, where's Wimbush? Wimbush is really good, St. Peters Prep High School, Jersey guy, and then there's Book, and Book is offensively he's making things click. He can run. He's tough. He'll run you over. He's got the whole package. I think they've found their guy."
On Notre Dame's coaching staff: "They're very similar to what they were (in 2015, the last time Pitt and Notre Dame met). They don't change much. Brian Kelly, Coach (Chip) Long is the (offensive) coordinator, but Brian Kelly, he's a master, offensive guru, and he's a great football coach. He may not be calling (plays), but I know he has a lot of input because you see his fingerprints over everything they do on offense, and then Clark Lea, their defensive coordinator who came from Wake (Forest), has been there, I think in his second season, first year as a coordinator, does a good job and very sound. I've known Clark, I've sat in a meeting room with Clark and talked football and defense. Guy is as sharp as you can get, and there's no doubt why they're having success, because they're consistent. They're smart. They've got good players. They keep it simple. And they let those guys make plays."
On how Notre Dame is different from the other ranked teams Pittsburgh has played this year, Penn State and Central Florida: "(Notre Dame has) guys from all over the country, first of all. Obviously they've got some great Pittsburgh kids, (Pennsylvania) kids on their football team. But they recruit all over the country, so they've got flavor everywhere, and they've been recruiting long enough to have what they want in their offensive and their defense, and I think they walk into high schools, they get what they want. Let's put it that way. You know, they've got a beautiful place to sell, and it's a great product and kids love it. So I mean, they walk into a high school, I don't want to say it's easy because nothing is easy, but it's easy to recruit, and they get some players."