Temple Owls vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Saturday, September 2nd, 3:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
By Mike M., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Temple +17.5 / ND -17.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5
Temple travels west for a Saturday afternoon showdown in South Bend against Notre Dame in a battle of two teams that had near opposite seasons of success in 2016, with the Owls finishing with a 10-4 record highlighted by a resounding 34-10 pummeling of Navy in the AAC Conference Championship Game and the Irish ending theirs with a disappointing mark of 4-8, which was their second worst record since 1963 and of their eight losses, six came in games that they were favored to win.
One major issue facing both teams is in the coaching department. Temple had to replace Matt Rhule as their sideline leader after he left for Baylor and will now turn to first time head coach Geoff Collins along with new coordinators on both offense and defense as the new regime will attempt to keep the winning belief that Rhule helped bring to the Owls that they had rarely seen before in their schools football history. Notre Dame on the other hand is stuck again with Brian Kelly, who has continuously brought shame to South Bend with his unfortunate stylistic combination of selfishness and incompetence mixed with a complete lack of accountability.
Thankfully for the Irish offense Kelly has said he wont be as involved in the play calling, which should help immensely as they team works to replace departed for the NFL quarterback Deshone Kizer. Taking his place will be sophomore Brandon Wimbush, who will have plenty of weapons to choose from with the team returning six of its top seven players in receptions including leading wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and pro prospect at tight end Durham Smythe. The backfield looks to be in strong shape as well with junior Josh Adams the lead rusher with a dominant left side of the offensive line in front of him highlighted by tackle Mike McLinchey and guard Quenton Nelson.
Defensively Notre Dame looks to be in good shape with seven starters back, led in the middle by senior linebacker Nyles Morgan, who finished last season tops on the team in tackles with 94 and sacks with four. Junior Drue Tranquil was second on the team after recording 79 tackles, and has the positional flexibility to either play safety or linebacker at a high level. Together as a group they will look to rebound from a poor finish to 2016 when they allowed 107 points in their last three losses, and with a matchup against Georgia coming in week two, will need to get all their kinks out against an untested Temple squad missing some key components from their point scoring side a season ago.
The Owl offense enters the season with major holes to fill, having lost to graduation four year starter at quarterback Phillip Walker, lead running back Jahal Thomas and center Dion Dawkins, who was picked in the second round of the NFL Draft and leaves a worrisome gap in an already deficient offensive line. They do return talented skill position players including wide receivers Ventell Bryant and Keith Kirkwood along with junior running back Ryquell Armstad, who scored fourteen touchdowns ago a season ago backing up Thomas. The biggest question facing the team is who will replace Walker at quarterback, with four incredibly inexperienced players(they have eleven pass attempts combined) battling for the position and sophomore Logan Marchi currently expected to get the start this weekend.
Temple faces similar questions on defense with only four starters back from a squad that ranked nationally 11th in scoring and 3rd against the pass and in total yards allowed. They lost six of their top seven in tackles including linebacker Haasan Reddick, who was picked the first round of the draft after leading the team in sacks and tackles for less and eventually earning a unanimous selection to the AAC All-Conference First Team. The strength of the defense will be their backfield, which returns three of four starters with safeties Delvon Randall and 2nd team All-Conference selection Sean Chandler the best of the group.
The first game of the season is always an important one, but this carries especial importantance for both teams with Temple already facing a tough early schedule that includes games against AAC conference stalwarts Houston and South Florida waiting for them at the end of the month, and Notre Dame not having any room for letdowns with the 12th most difficult schedule in the country with 11 of the 12 games against teams that went to a bowl a season ago. The Irish have not done especially well at home against the spread lately, having gone just 2-5 in their last seven in South Bend including 1-4 last year as a home favorite, while Temple has the other side of the spectrum 6-0 in their last six against the spread away from Philadelphia including a 12-4 mark in their last 16 as a road underdog.
Thankfully for Notre Dame they catch Temple in a near rebuilding type year with a brand new coaching staff and their most important players on both offense and defense gone from a season ago. This benefits the Irish immensely as they have struggled mightily against quality competition in recent years, going just 2-20 in their last 22 games against teams ranked in the top 13, and unfortunately for Owl fans they are nowhere near that caliber of team. I do expect Notre Dame to get to open their season in South Bend with a win, but if looking to take the number would side with Temple as the 17.5 point head start is just too much to pass up.
Mike M’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Temple +17.5
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