Notre Dame and Temple square off in South Bend, Indiana, in a rematch of the 2015 thriller that ended with a 24-20 Fighting Irish victory. Game time is at 3:30 EST on Saturday, September 2nd, from Notre Dame Stadium, and will be televised on NBC. Odds have Notre Dame as 18-point favorites and growing.
After an abysmal 4-8 year that saw them lose seven games by a touchdown or less, head coach Brian Kelly must right the ship. His job depends on it.
Notre Dame is predicted to win twice as many games this season, but must create more turnovers and finish late in games to do so. This will be the case with an opening test against Temple, who stood toe-to-toe with them in Philadelphia two years ago.
The Owls come into 2017 having completed consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time in program history. They had to replace head coach Matt Rhule, who’s now at Baylor, but made a strong hire in former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.
Temple lost quite a few key players, especially defensively, but still look to be a bowl participant and AAC dark horse contender in 2017.
This game could turn into an all-you-can-eat stats buffet for the running backs. Notre Dame has a budding star, Josh Adams, who as only a sophomore ran for 1,768 yards (6.4 YPC) and 11 touchdowns.
Much of that success can be credited to one of the best offensive lines in the country, which returns four of five starters. This includes the best NFL guard prospect for 2017, Quenton Nelson, and a potential top-10 pick in LT Mike McGlinchey. It also helps that Temple no longer has star DE Haason Reddick and is rebuilding all over the front seven.
With that mind, it’s easy to see Notre Dame controlling the line and the game. If Temple commits several defenders to the box, the Fighting Irish have big and talented options like WR Equanimeous Brown (961 yards, 9 touchdowns in 2016) and TE Alize Mack for intermediate routes. The deep ball probably won’t work with Temple having two of the better safeties in the country, Sean Chandler and Delvon Randall, as part of a group that was 3rd in the country against the pass last year. But behind his line, new Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush should have plenty of time to throw. He has very little college experience, but possesses the natural talent (top-5 QB recruit) and intellect to move the chains.
The problem for Notre Dame lies in the amount of time Temple will be able to control the ball. Though the Fighting Irish are prime to string together some elongated drives, the Owls can do the same to them.
Ryquell Armstead is a very capable back, managing 919 yards and punching in 14 touchdowns in 2016. And he wasn’t even the primary rusher for the Owls. This is not an ideal matchup for a Notre Dame defensive line that is by far their weakest component.
The Irish return zero sacks from a line that was already 120th in the stat. They were also subpar versus the run at 74th in the country, and rarely made teams cough the ball up (95th in fumbles recovered). But Notre Dame are less likely to get burned with their blitzes though, as Temple is still trying to decide between four QBs, none of them having had ample time with the first-teamers in fall practice. With less to worry about in the air, Notre Dame may find relief with their athletic LB’s, most notably Nyles Morgan.
Still, both teams will likely wear down the other’s defense on the ground. This will keep the clock moving, and allow the over/under to stay shy of 53.5. After all, Temple is under in 5 of its last 6 games, Notre Dame 5 of 7.
And as far as the spread goes, Notre Dame is 2-5 ATS in their last 7 contests, while Temple is on a string of 12-1 ATS. Even with a coaching change and a slight dip in talent, Temple returns enough to give the Fighting Irish an early test.