The Temple Owls are currently on a historic run. The Owls are 7-0 for the first time in school history, sit atop the East Division of the American Athletic Conference, ranked 21st in the AP Top 25, and have the potential to continue their campaign for greatness. However, they have one huge roadblock in their way: the 9th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
On Saturday night, the Owls and Fighting Irish clash with media attention surrounding the entire game. On Saturday morning, ESPN’s College GameDay will be in Philadelphia, at Independence Hall, covering the game. Come the night, Temple and Notre Dame will be under the lights and cameras coming from every angle, as ABC will be nationally televising the game.
This game is arguably the biggest game in Temple’s history. With all the spotlights on Temple, head coach Matt Rhule has assured the media his guys are focused on the game and only looking at it in that way and not seeing this as a special game only for advertising their team to the nation.
Rhule said in his weekly presser “I think, as coaches, you're always trying to eliminate distractions… You know what the future games can be, but you're trying to stick with the game at hand. I think they're a pretty confident group. I think you get confident when you win. We've been able to go out and do that.”
For Temple, they have a tough task at hand to go up against one of the top ten teams in the nation. Temple has to expose the weakest point in Notre Dame’s game, and that is their rushing defense. Notre Dame allows an average of 175.9 rushing yards per game, which is 80th in the nation. Temple will need Jahad Thomas, their star running back, to continue his dominance and run all over Notre Dame.
That is not to say that Temple should abandon their passing game. Quarterback P.J. Walker might not have been accurate last week, only completing 54.3% of his passes, but he did throw for 250 yards and converted late, clutch passes, including a 51 yard bomb to wideout Robby Anderson and a 23 yard touchdown pass to Anderson to help propel the Owls to a victory.
On defense, Temple is stacked all around and this is their stage to showcase just how good they are. The Owls can stop the run very well, allowing an average of under 100 yards. Luckily, Notre Dame’s weak point on offense is their running game.
Temple will need exceptional play from their secondary to try and contain the Fighting Irish’s aerial assault and a lot of pressure from their front line to get to quarterback DeShone Kizer and get him uncomfortable in the pocket early.
On defense, there are three players to watch for Temple. On the defensive line, lineman Matt Ioannidis will look to stop any runs coming up the middle. Moving towards the middle of the field, linebacker Tyler Matakevich will be flying around to break up passes, get to the quarterback, and pick of passes, as he is the most versatile defender on the team. In the secondary, look out for defensive back Sean Chandler, who already has two interceptions and 17 tackles.
For Notre Dame, Kizer will be the player to contain, along with wideout Will Fuller. Fuller is Kizer’s favorite target, who has eight touchdown receptions so far this season and over 700 yards.
This is the toughest game for Temple all season, potentially in their entire history. However, this is the perfect time for them to meet Notre Dame. Temple is expected to keep it close with Notre Dame and a win could throw the Owls into the discussion for the College Football Playoffs and potentially a top 15 or even top 10 team in the nation.