Opponent: Temple Owls, Big East Conference
Head Coach: Matt Rhule (1st year at Temple)
Starting QB: Connor Reilly
Impact Players: Chris Coyer (HB), Jalen Fitzpatrick (WR), Kenneth Harper (RB) Tyler Matakevich (LB)
The Temple Owls face an uphill battle when they roll into South Bend for Matt Rhule’s first game as head coach. Rhule got the job in December of last year after returning to Temple from a brief stint in the NFL with the New York Giants.
Coach Rhule’s forte is the offense; he spent five years with Temple from 2006-2011 working under former head coach, Steve Addazio (Now with Boston College). He’ll have his work cut out for him with first time starter, Conner Reilly in place of last season’s quarterback, Chris Coyer. At 6-3 250lbs, Coyer made the move to H-back and gives the Owls another weapon besides receiver, Jalen Fitzpatrick and starting running back Kenneth Harper. Coyer is second in line at tight end, but look for him to move into the backfield in two back sets. Temple returns three starters on the offensive line, but they are awfully undersized for what Nix and his counterparts have in store for them and will likely need some help making holes for Harper. By all accounts, Connor Reilly is a pro-style quarterback who can really spin it. If the Owls can establish some type of running game, look for them for try to go over the top of the Irish secondary. Reilly beat out Clinton Granger for the starting job but don’t be surprised if you see Granger make a cameo appearance Saturday afternoon. Granger is a big, dual threat quarterback who can provide a change of pace for Offensive Coordinator Marcus Satterfield.
Defensively, Temple boasts the Big East Defensive Rookie of the Year, Tyler Matakevich. Last season Matakevich racked up 101 tackles in just 9 games; but didn’t record a single sack or interception. Coach Rhule is depending on senior, Sean Daniels to lead the pass rush; Daniels, a defensive end, would be average sized for a linebacker, so don’t expect Zach Martin or Ronnie Stanley to have too much trouble. The Irish offensive line will be ultimately be too much for Temple in the trenches.
Although Temple shouldn’t provide much in the form of adversity this weekend, it will still be good to see Rees and the offense in some game action. It’s always scary to look ahead a week, but It’s vital for the Irish to get into a rhythm offensively and work out any kinks still left from fall camp; before heading up to Ann Arbor in a couple weeks. Temple will not provide challenge to see what the offense is really made of this season, but there are some key players to watch:
- George Atkinson needs to run tough between the tackles. Will he divert to his 2012 ways and try to bounce everything outside?
- See how Troy Nicklas catches the ball. Is he ready to be the next star at Tight End University?
- Can Davaris Daniels establish himself as a reliable option 2nd option to TJ Jones?
Defensively, the play of freshman Jaylon Smith will be fun to watch. Temple is a great opponent for Smith to work out some of his freshman jitters. Overall, this is more of a tune-up defensively as the Irish have 10 starters who had pretty significant playing time last season. The only question for the defense this week is: How ugly will it get for the Temple offense?
As expected, this should be a pretty routine win for Notre Dame and, frankly, could get out of hand. Hopefully Rees and the starters can throw a big number on the board early and give the Irish a chance to show their depth on both sides of the ball. Getting the two and even three deep guys a few series is big early in the season, especially if the injury bug rears its ugly head at some point.
We’ll have predictions later this week. GO IRISH
Notre Dame tickets for the home opener against Temple begin for as low as $57. If you’re looking for the best seats, you can grab tickets in the lower level between the 20′s for only $137.