TEMPLE OWLS (0-0)
at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (0-0)
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Notre Dame -18.5, Total: 54.0
Notre Dame looks to put a disappointing 2016 behind them, hosting Temple on Saturday to open 2017.
Former Florida assistant Geoff Collins takes over a Temple program coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons and an AAC championship under Matt Rhule (now at Baylor). Collins inherits a team with an abundance of holes to fill, including quarterback and throughout the defensive front. There’s plenty of skill position talent returning for the Owls, and they may rotate QBs until they find the right fit, but starting the year in South Bend is not an ideal situation for fine-tuning an offense. Head coach Brian Kelly suffered his first losing season at Notre Dame in 2016, and the 4-8 mark brings his winning percentage with the Irish down to .656. A new coordinator and a new quarterback hope to right the ship in 2017, bringing an uptempo attack to a team with talent at the skill positions and a couple of future pros on the offensive line. The defense got drubbed by quality opponents last year, and the D-line is full of holes, though the secondary should improve and the linebacking corps is full of experience. These teams have met twice, in 2013 and 2015, and both resulted in Notre Dame wins with Temple covering the spread. As 11-point road favorites in 2015, the Irish needed a late touchdown to secure a 24-20 victory. Notre Dame is 4-1 SU & 1-4 ATS all time against the AAC, and 20-3 SU & 8-15 ATS (35%) as a home favorite of 10 to 18 points under Brian Kelly. Since 2006, Temple is 3-9 SU & 10-2 ATS as an underdog of 10 to 18 points.
Temple is still unsettled at quarterback after four-year starter P.J. Walker graduated. Top WRs Ventell Bryant (54 receptions, 895 yards, 4 TD), Keith Kirkwood (42, 648, 4) and Adonis Jennings (27, 474, 4) all return from last season’s efficient passing attack. RB Ryquell Armstead (919 rushing yards, 14 TD, 5.9 yards per carry) ascends into a featured role and should be productive behind an offensive line that returns three starters. K Aaron Boumerhi excelled as a freshman last season, succeeding on 88% of his FG attempts. Temple’s third-ranked defense allowed just 18.4 points per game (11th in FBS) last season and posted three shutouts, though the Owls allowed 34 points to both of their power conference opponents (Penn State and Wake Forest). Temple lost most of their front seven, including first-round NFL draft pick LB Haason Reddick. DL Michael Dogbe (5 TFL) earned a starting role in the middle of last season because of his relentless effort, and the sophomore LB trio of Shaun Bradley, Sam Franklin and Will Kwenkeu gives the Owls a very athletic, though inexperienced, second level. The secondary, which held opponents to 152 pass yards per game (3rd in FBS) last season will remain a strength with three starters returning. Safeties Delvon Randall (4 INT, 6 TFL) and Sean Chandler (2 INT, 3.5 TFL) are probably the two best players on Temple’s defense.
New Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long arrives from Memphis, where his offense tallied 38.8 points per game with a new starter under center in his first go-round as a coordinator. Long will try to work similar magic with the new Irish starting QB, dual-threat junior Brandon Wimbush. The NFL-caliber left side of the offensive line, OT Mike McGlinchey and OG Quenton Nelson, includes arguably the nation’s best blocking duo. Wimbush should be able to use his legs for big yardage, as will starting RB Josh Adams (1,126 yards from scrimmage, 6 TD). 6’5” Equanimeous St. Brown (58 receptions, 961 yards, 9 TD) is a legitimate No. 1 WR, and Kevin Stepherson (25 receptions, 462 yards, 5 TD) is ready for a bigger role after a strong freshman showing. TE Alize Mack, who showed promise as a freshman in 2015, returns to the roster after sitting out 2016 for academics. The Notre Dame defense gave up 33 or more points in half of their games last year, and new defensive coordinator Mike Elko (previously DC at Wake Forest) has to find production up front. The returning defensive lineman are all sack-less for their careers, and DEs Daelin Hayes and Jay Hayes (no relation) must take a big step forward. Luckily for the Irish, the linebacking corps is stacked with experienced talent. LBs Nyles Morgan (94 total tackles, 4 sacks, 6 TFL), Te’von Conley (62 total tackles) and Greer Martini (3 sacks, 7 TFL) all return, with Drue Tranquill (79 total tackles) moving from safety to LB. The secondary should be better after allowing 7.5 yards per pass attempt (88th in the nation) last season. CB Julian Love had an impressive freshman season, and CBs Nick Watkins and Shaun Crawford return after redshirting in 2016 with injuries.