Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Notre Dame-Temple Preview

Notre Dame QB's: Going into this season, Notre Dame's quarterback situation was a non-factor with starter Everett Golson returning after a 12 win season, and having backups who have had playing time in Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix. However, in late May, Everett Golson was suspended for the season and Tommy Rees would be named starter. Tommy Rees has started 18 games over 3 years with a majority of the starts being in the 2011 season. Rees appeared in every game in 2012 with the exceptions of Navy (due to suspension) and Alabama, with notable amounts of playing time against Michigan, BYU, and the final drive against Purdue. Rees completed 34 out of 59 passes for 436 yards with 2 passing touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Backing Rees up will be Andrew Hendrix, who only completed 5 of 7 passes for 55 yards. Hendrix is also capable of running the ball as well. True freshman Malik Zaire enrolled early and had significant playing time in the spring game with a touchdown pass. Zaire and Hendrix both could see a lot of playing time this season depending on how things go, regardless it is important for both to get playing time and game-time experience.

Notre Dame QB's vs. Temple Pass Defense: The Temple Owls had one of the worst secondaries in college football last season with a unit that only had 4 interceptions all season and allowed 237 passing yards a game. The Owls graduated both starting safeties from last season and are expected to have a true freshman starting at one of the safety spots going into the season opener. Considering that the Temple pass defense is one of the worst units on the team it would be ideal for Notre Dame to pass early on in the game and allow the backup quarterbacks to get playing time.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple QB's: Temple quarterback Connor Reilly will be making his first career start against the Irish, Reilly has been the holder on extra points. The starter from the previous season, Chris Coyer moved to H-Back and is actually the teams returning leading rusher as well and had 444 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Backing up Connor Reilly will be Juice Granger who passed for 370 yards and also completed 31 passes out of 55 attempts with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Granger is the teams second returning leading rusher with 206 yards and 1 touchdown.

Temple QB's vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense: Connor Reilly has the task in his first career start of going against a veteran Notre Dame secondary that returns 3 starters. Notre Dame's pass defense was a surprise last season and allowed only a few opposing teams to pass for 200 or more yards all season. Even with the loss of Zeke Motta to the NFL, look for the Irish to keep improving in the pass defense and keep Temple below 200 passing yards all game.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame RB's: Although the Irish lost Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick, who both had significant stats last season, there is still plenty of depth at the running back position. George Atkinson III is the top returning player with 51 carries for 361 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns and had a few 50+ yard runs and a team-high 7.1 yards a carry. Cam McDaniel had 23 carries for 125 yards and 1 touchdown last season. Amir Carlisle and Will Mahone will both see playing time as well along with true freshmen Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. Will Mahone had an injury and will be out against the Owls.

Notre Dame RB's vs. Temple Rush Defense: The run defense for Temple isn't any better than their pass defense. The Owls allowed 199 rushing yards a game which was the teams worst since 2006 (allowed 244 yards per game on the ground) and lost most of their starters on the defensive line and return only 1 starter this season. Rotating in running backs will be important to wear out their defense and also get in playing time as well. Look for a strong effort by the Notre Dame running game and for most to potentially all available running backs getting in playing time.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple RB's: Temple lost nearly half of their returning rushing yards in Montel Harris, a Boston College transfer who had 1,054 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns last season. His backup last season, Matt Brown also graduated and had 372 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. The starter, Kenny Harper had only 65 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns last season. Also, his backup Jamie Gilmore only had 94 rushing yards last season.

Temple RB's vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense: Notre Dame has what may be the best defensive line in college football that is headlined by juniors Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. With Temple being heavily inexperienced at running back, look for the Irish to have a strong showing on defense against the run and keep Temple well below 100 rushing yards for the game.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame WR's and TE's: The Irish lost their top guy in tight end Tyler Eifert who set numerous records for a Notre Dame tight end and is now in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Irish do return TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels, TJ Jones was named one of the team captain and had 50 receptions for 649 yards and 4 touchdowns. Daniels had 31 catches for 490 yards and missed 2 games late in the season due to injury. Also returning of note are Chris Brown and Daniel Smith. CJ Prosise moved over from the secondary and the Irish have quite a few incoming freshmen. Corey Robinson in particular has done well in preseason practice and was an early enrollee as well. Troy Niklas is the new starter at tight end with the loss of Tyler Eifert and is expected to carry on the legacy of Notre Dame producing great tight ends recently and historically. Also, the backups at tight end will be Alex Welch and Ben Koyack.

Notre Dame WR's and TE's vs. Temple DB's: The Temple secondary is one of the weakest units on the team and is breaking in new starters at both safety spots as well. Tommy Rees will need to get the ball to his receivers and spread it out as well. While TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels, and Troy Niklas will be targeted, look for others to see playing time as well. The Notre Dame receivers should have a great game and look for backups to get meaningful minutes in as well.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple WR's and TE's: The top returnee at receiver for Temple is Jalen Fitzpatrick who had 30 receptions for 363 yards and 2 touchdowns. The only other players who return with 10 or more receptions are Cody Booth (who has moved to the offensive line) and Kenny Harper (a running back), as Temple was more of a run based team in 2012 (201 rushing yards per game and 121 passing yards per game).

Temple WR's and TE's vs. Notre Dame DB's: Jalen Fitzpatrick is the only player the Irish have to worry about significantly with Temple being more of a run based team, which will help with the defense as it may mean that the Irish don't have to drop as many players into coverage and still be able to commit to both the pass and the run.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame OL: The Notre Dame offensive line is headlined by Zach Martin and Chris Watt on the left side. Martin was named captain for the second season in a row and the unit will feature a couple new starters with Braxston Cave and Mike Golic Jr. having graduated. Early enrollee Steve Elmer has been drawn quite a bit of praise from Brian Kelly and also is capable of playing multiple spots on the offensive line as well.

Notre Dame OL vs. Temple DL: The Temple Owls only return one starter in senior Levi Brown for their defensive line. Even with Notre Dame having a couple new starters, this shouldn't be an issue as the Irish should be able to open lanes up for the running game and keep opposing defenders out of the backfield.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple OL: The Temple OL returns quite a few starters including 6th year player Sean Boyle. The line did a solid job in run blocking as Temple had 1000 yard rusher last season. The Owls offensive line is easily the strength of Temple offense this season with the Owls having new starters at QB and RB most notably.

Temple OL vs. Notre Dame DL: While the Temple offensive line is their best offensive unit, they face one of the very best defensive lines in Notre Dame's. While Notre Dame has a little bit of the depth issue due to injuries, they should be able to play backups as needed against Temple.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame DL: The defensive line for Notre Dame is the strength of a really great Notre Dame defense. Even with the loss of Kapron Lewis-Moore, the Irish have Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III and Sheldon Day starting. Day has earned a lot of praise after playing a solid amount as a true freshman while Tuitt and Nix are All-American candidates. Tuitt had a strong season in 2012 with 12 sacks and a defensive touchdown, and Nix is a force in the middle. Sheldon Day is a rising star and could a strong presence in opposing backfields with the main focus on Nix and Tuitt.

Notre Dame DL vs. Temple OL: While Temple returns the core of its offensive line, the Irish have two players in Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix that will attract double coverage and give more opportunities for Sheldon Day and other defenders. The Irish will need to stay healthy and avoid injuries with Tony Springmann and Chase Hounshell out for the season.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple DL: Levi Brown is the only starter returning from the Temple defensive line from last season and he had 27 tackles and 3 tackles for loss last season. The unit allowed 200 or more rushing yards in 5 games in the 2012 season.

Temple DL vs. Notre Dame OL: With Temple having only 1 returning starter from last season, the new starters will be put to a test right away with an experienced Notre Dame offensive line that features a strong left side. Temple's defense also had trouble getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks with the most out of a single player being 2 quarterback hurries. Look for Notre Dame to contain the inexperienced Temple defensive line.

Notre Dame LB's: The loss of Manti Te'o will be felt, but the linebacker unit is still deep even with Danny Spond having to retire early. Jaylon Smith will start at outside linebacker opposite multi-year starter Prince Shembo. The inside has veterans with Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox, but is deep with Jarrett Grace and Kendall Moore as well. Shembo could build upon his strong junior season with a potential of a double-digit sack season as well.

Notre Dame LB's vs. Temple: For the Notre Dame linebackers, the biggest focus for them will be supporting the defensive line. Look for Prince Shembo to make his presence known in the backfield and put pressure on Temple. Jaylon Smith will need to be able to make an impact as well with it being his first career start.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple LB's: The linebacker unit is the strongest unit of Temple's defense that returns to tackler in Tyler Matakevich who had 101 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 3 pass deflections last season. He also was the Big East Defensive Freshman Player of the Year last season. Another returning starter is Blaze Caponegro who had 30 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass deflection last season. Nate D. Smith returns with 75 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 2 pass deflections and 1 quarterback hurry.

Temple LB's vs. Notre Dame: Containing Temple's linebackers will be the most important thing to do for the Irish, especially Tyler Matakevich. This could mean more double tight end sets on offense for the Irish. If Notre Dame keeps the linebacker unit contained and out of the backfield, then that will make things significantly easier on offense for Notre Dame.

Edge: Even

Notre Dame DB's: What was a big question mark going into last season wound up significantly exceeding expectations and helped keep numerous teams below 200 passing yards last season. The unit returns nearly intact with the only notable losses being Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter (both in the NFL now). The unit welcomes back Austin Collinsworth and Lo Wood who missed last season due to injury. Bennett Jackson was named captain and is the teams top returning tackler and interception leader with 65 tackles and 4 interceptions. KeiVarae Russell was a big surprise after being put into the other starting cornerback spot and and had 2 interceptions and was first team freshman All-American as well. Matthias Farley stepped in when Jamoris Slaughter and had a solid season as a redshirt freshman.

Notre Dame DB's vs. Temple WR's: The only receiver Notre Dame must really worry about is Jalen Fitzpatrick as he is the only returning receiver to have made an impact last season. Fitzpatrick had 363 receiving yards last season which was 226 more yards than the no. 2 receiver last season. Considering all of this, Notre Dame won't have to have as many players playing in coverage and should be able to focus on the run.

Edge: Notre Dame

Temple DB's: Temple is starting new safeties this season but returns both starting corners in Zamel Johnson and Anthony Robey. The pass defense was horrible last season with Temple allowing 237 yards per game and only allowed below 200 yards 3 times (and one of those was a run-based team that only attempted 9 passes in the entire game). The unit only had 4 interceptions all season which was one of the lowest among Division 1-A teams last season.

Temple DB's vs. Notre Dame WR's: The Irish have experienced receivers in TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels and can pose problems for the Owls secondary. If Tommy Rees is able to get the ball to the receivers and spread it around, it will make committing to the pass harder for Temple, especially with a unit that was weak against the pass last season and having a couple of new starters.

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Kicking Game: Kyle Brindza made 23 out of 31 field goals with the most notable being the game winner against Purdue last season and also was the kickoff specialist last season with 26 touchbacks. Wake Forest transfer Alex Wulfeck is expected to take over on punts with Ben Turk having graduated, but it is possible that Brindza could handle punting duty as well in addition to being the kicker and kickoff specialist.

Temple Kicking Game: The unit is getting a big drop off with the kicker and punter from last season being gone. Albany transfer Paul Layton will be handing the kicking and punting duties and was 2-time All-NEC while at Albany.

Stronger Unit: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Return Game: George Atkinson III didn't have as great of a season as he did in 2011 when he returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns. In 2012, he had just a 20 yard average and only a long of 39 yards. Punt returns were a non-factor as most needed to be fair caught.

Temple Return Game: The return game also suffered a huge hit with the loss of Matt Brown who averaged 25.5 yards per return and had a kickoff return for a touchdown. He also also averaged 14.2 yards per punt return with a long of 45. Jaen Fitzpatrick also returned kickoffs and had a 24 yard average and a long of 43.

Stronger Unit: Even

Everything Else: The offseason for Notre Dame was an interesting turn of events with the suspension of Everett Golson and injury issues as well. However, the team has it's depth and experience, and returns most of the starters on defense while having a strong left side on the offensive line. New starters and first year players will need to establish themselves. Tommy Rees has the experience and needs to cut down on turnovers that were an issue most notably in 2011. The running back unit will need to be consistent with the losses of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. While George Atkinson III is the starter, the backups need to establish themselves to prevent reliance on Atkinson. Troy Niklas will need to be able to make plays and help make up for the loss of Eifert. The defensive line must stay healthy and get in backups as needed for experience. Temple is playing under a first year head coach, a new starter at quarterback who was buried on the depth chart the last couple of seasons. Temple had major losses in the running game and on the defensive front. Look for a strong balanced effort on offense to open the season for the Irish.

Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Temple 0  

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