Number 9 Notre Dame plays Number 21 Temple in a nationally-televised game on Halloween.
It is hard to find a bigger college football game that has occurred in Philadelphia. When the schedule was released, the Temple-Notre Dame game was viewed as a litmus test to see how the program stacked up against a big-time program. No one could have imagined that this game would be the game of the week in college football. Notre Dame is currently 6-1 and is fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Temple is 7-0 and is in a position to win their first American Athletic Conference title. On Saturday Night at Lincoln Financial Field,
The Fighting Irish are playing their first game after a bye week. The extra time allowed the players to rest. It also allowed them to get an early start to game plan against the Owls. Notre Dame won the last matchup against Temple in 2013 28-6. Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly has seen a difference from the first matchup and the job Matt Rhule has done in a couple of years.
“If you just look back on our game in 2013 and where he’s taken this program, they are deserving of their ranking” stated Kelly. “They have earned everything that they have gotten this year as a football team. It’s an outstanding defense. They do everything very well. Phil [Snow] is a veteran defensive coordinator. He’s seen a little bit of everything in his career, from the NFL to college, and implements a lot of different looks defensively.”
With all of the outside activities that are taking place, the Temple players are enjoying the atmosphere and are taking in the entire situation.
“It’s just something special” senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich said Wednesday. “We’ve honestly been through it all. There are not too many situations that you can throw at us that we haven’t been through. From going 2-10 to 6-6 to now at the situation that we are at. We were 7-0 right now but if you look back a few years ago, we were 1-6 at this time. You can’t take anything for granted. You have to enjoy the moment and enjoy everything that is going on and not let it get the best of you.”
Against Notre Dame’s defense, the key is going to be the play of quarterback P.J. Walker and his receivers. To move the ball through the air, Walker will have to be accurate. It will also be interesting to see if Walker will have a few more designed runs called. The Clemson Tigers were able to spread out the Notre Dame defense and ran a few quarterback draw plays with Deshaun Watson that were successful. While Watson is a Heisman Trophy candidate, Walker does possess some athleticism, and the use of his legs could be a big weapon. Also, the receivers cannot drop balls that are thrown in their direction. Last week against East Carolina, there were a couple of opportunities to prolong drives. However, a couple of receivers dropped passes and drives stalled. Finally, third down conversions will be key. Last week, the team converted 30 percent of their third downs (4 for 13). That rate will not be able to get the job done against Fighting Irish, whose opponents have only converted third down opportunities 29 percent of the time.
Temple’s defense will have to play disciplined football. C.J. Prosise is a very good running back and can take over a game. He has the power to run in between the tackles and has the speed to run sweeps effectively. He is also more than capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. Quarterback DeShone Kizer is an athletic quarterback and has a strong arm. Wide receiver Will Fuller has had ann excellent season, already garnering eight touchdowns catches. It will be interesting to see how the team prepares to cover Fuller. One thing that should help is the return of safety Will Hayes back in the secondary this week. Rhule said Wednesday that Hayes was available against East Carolina, but only if a few injuries occurred. It will also be imperative that Temple gets a good pass rush against Kizer and limit the yards after the catch.
This game is not an automatic win that some might think and very well could decided in the fourth quarter. Since the 2010 season, Notre Dame is 2-6 in road games against teams that are ranked by The Associated Press. The Owls will have a good showing against Notre Dame. It will a be a close game until the end but right now, it looks like Notre Dame will win.
Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Temple 20