Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1 SU, 6-1 ATS) vs. Temple Owls (7-0 SU, 5-2 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date/Time: Saturday, October 31st, 8:00 PM EST
Where: Lincoln Financial Field
by Mike M., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Temple +10 / ND -10
Over/Under Total: 49
No.9 Notre Dame travels to Philadelphia to take on the #21 Temple Owls for a primetime showdown in the only college football game this weekend involving two ranked teams. College Gameday will be broadcasting from Temple for the first time in the schools history in what will be the shows 300th visit to a college campus over the past 22 seasons. Notre Dame was part of the first ever Gameday back in 1993, when they defeated #1 Florida State 31-24 in South Bend after a last second pass by Seminole quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward was deflected in the end zone.
Temple enters the game undefeated at 7-0 and ranked in the top 25 for the first time in 36 years. The Owl offense is led by junior quarterback P.J Walker, who has thrown for 1,313 yards this season to go along with nine touchdowns and just three interceptions. Similar to the Notre Dame offense, Temple relies heavily on two skill position players for a majority of the offense, running back Jahad Thomas and wide receiver Robby Anderson. Thomas is the clear focal point of the backfield, rushing 165 times for 822 yards and twelve touchdowns while Anderson leads the receiving corps with 31 catches for 388 yards and five touchdowns. While the team does rank a respectable 51st in points per game 32.3, their offensive yardage production leaves a lot of room for improvement. They have been outgained in yards in three of their seven games and rank a paltry 108th in the NCAA in total offense with neither part differentiating themselves much from the other, landing at 92nd in rushing and 93th in passing.
Thankfully for Temple, they always have their dominant defense to rely on. Out of 128 college football teams the Owls rank 14th in total defense and 6th against the run, which will be a necessary commodity going up against C.J Prosise and the Irish rushing attack. The only real concern for the Temple D is that they really havent been tested much this year against any teams with a running game as potent as Notre Dames, with only one team they have played (Cincinnati) ranking in the top 50 in total rushing offense while five of the seven rank near or at the NCAA basement; Penn State (93), ECU (100), UMass (118), Tulane (125), and UCF (128).
Notre Dame has had two weeks to prepare for Temple as they are coming of a bye after beating USC 41-31 back on October 17th, a game they trailed 31-24 going into the 4th quarter before scoring seventeen unanswered points to finish off the Trojans. The Irish offense again got solid play from quarterback DeShone Kizer, who threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns and zero interceptions to add to a 10-4 touchdown-interception ratio on the season which is quite impressive considering his complete lack of experience before getting thrown into the starting role after Malik Zaire was injured in week two.
The Irish offense continues to succeed with stalwarts C.J. Prosise and midseason All-American wide receiver Will Fuller. Both shined against USC with C.J. running for 143 yards and two touchdowns while Fuller hauled in three catches for 131 yards and his eighth touchdown of the season, the second most of any receiver in the NCAA. Both will be looking to improve upon their play from Notre Dames last road game and only loss of the year in rain soaked Clemson back in the beginning of October, when Prosise had a season low 50 yards rushing while Fuller also put up his worst stats of the year with just 2 catches for 27 yards and was held out of the end zone for the only time in seven games so far this season.
The key to the game will be the battle of Temples defense against a potent Notre Dame offense. While the battle of Notre Dames 15th rated running game vs. Temples aforementioned 6th ranked run defense will get the most attention, how Notre Dames wide receivers along with quarterback Kizer take advantage of all the attention given to Prosise could be the difference. While Temple does have two very good cornerbacks in Tavon Young and Sean Chandler, both are under six feet tall and will have to contend with one-on-one coverage against the speedy and prolific Fuller along with major height disadvantages against receivers like 65 Corey Robinson, son of NBA legend David Robinson.
This weeks game is arguably the biggest in the history of the Temple football program and tickets have been sold out for weeks. The added benefit of it being under the lights and the campus hosting Gameday for the first time ever should have fans and students in an absolute uproar by game time and how the Temple players handle the excitement and intensity will go a long way in deciding the outcome on Saturday. The Owls will hope to resume their success as an underdog, going 6-2 in their last eight games getting points and having won all three games they have been dogs in this year. More than anything, they will need to step up their play going up against such a strong opponent, something they have been dreadful at in recent years as evident by their 1-25 record against ranked teams since the year 2000.
While I expect the excitement and energy of the crowd to boost the Owls early on, they may lack the offensive firepower to keep pace with a balanced Notre Dame squad and while an undefeated record of 7-0 is impressive, Temple has played against just the 102nd rated schedule vs. a Notre Dame squad that has been well tested against a schedule rated 6th. The Irish have done exceptionally well at playing their best at games end, outscoring their opponents 39-3 in the fourth quarter through the last three games and 84-20 in the second half over the last four. In Saturdays best matchup, Notre Dame will continue this success and keep their playoff hopes alive with a win and cover at Temple.
Mikes Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -10
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