Welcome Loyal Readers. Are you refreshed after a week away from NDFB? Yeah…who am I kidding. I know you. You were sitting there at home dissecting crazy playoff situations, getting angry at Heisman ballots, running regression studies on field turf and ND’s leg injuries, and longing for the days Lou Holtz was trolling Mark May on “College Football Final” because dear word is the new group terrible.
So, will Saturday’s game be a trick…or a treat? Oh, you didn’t come here for painfully bad Halloween jokes? I’m disappointed in you. But ND football’s back, so let’s hug, make up, and start talking about this week’s match-up.
The When/Where/What Time/Etc: And they’re coming…to your Sit-Tay….I hate that song. I’m not sure who is Big and who is Rich, but whichever one is the skinny white guy wearing a rejected redneck pimp costume ranks high (or is it low) on my list of “celebrities” I do not like. I know nothing about him other than his stupid selection in head wear, but man is that decision to wear a top hat obnoxious. If I saw him trotting down the street in my college town followed by a parade of people acting like he’s Ferris Bueller I would do everything in my power to trip him and take that velvety top hat and burn it…safely away from other people because it looks cheap. I HAVE VERY STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT THE GUY IN THE TOP HAT WHO SINGS THE INTRO SONG TO COLLEGE GAMEDAY!! Which reminds me…
What’s up, Philadelphia? pic.twitter.com/bnSsY4j6jt
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 30, 2015
For the second time this season, College Game Day is joining Notre Dame on the road for an 8PM game on ABC. The game will happen at Lincoln Financial Field, current home to future USC/Miami/Other USC/Central Florida/New Mexico State Head Coach Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles. HLS assistant editor Andrewwinn will be there. His name is Jude. Seriously. If you see him, his name is Jude and not Andrew. I can neither confirm nor deny that he is in fact just an NDMSPaint drawing. The best place to run into him will be at the tailgate of HLS’s graphic goddess Philly Kelly. Awhile back Tex and I got her to agree to make the #HLSSelfieStick a thing…now it’s time to see if that’ll be a reality.
The Opposing Coach: Matt Rhule is now in his third season as Temple’s head coach. Rhule took over at the beginning of 2013 when former ND assistant coach Steve Addazio left to take the Boston College job. We’ll discuss him more a few weeks from now. Rhule came to Temple in 2006 when Al Golden was hired as head coach. He ascended through the assistant positions during Golden’s time, spending the last three seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. After a one year Stint on Addazio’s staff, Rhule got a taste of the NFL in 2012 as a part of the New York Giants staff. But the sexy allure of Temple’s HC position was too much to resist. Rhule’s very first game as a head coach was a loss to the Thomas Rees led Irish 28-6. After finishing 2-10 in year one, Rhule’s team showed marked improvement going 6-6 in 2014 which included a road win versus SEC-powerhouse Vanderbilt in the 2014 opener (37-7) and a win versus then #21 East Carolina. Temple’s 7 wins already this year ensures Rhule will have shown progress for a third consecutive season, and the Owl’s appearance in the AP Top 25 is a first since 1979. At just 40 years old, you get the sense this might be his last season at Temple. Rhule was born and raised in State College, PA and played football…at linebacker..at Penn State. His pedigree would seem to make him an attractive candidate to many teams comes season’s end perhaps paving a Golden road back to Temple for Al. I kid..kind of.
Temple’s Last Game: Win over East Carolina 24-14. Temple, as you may have gathered, is located in Pennsylvania. Their proximity to Pitt (who ND will play in a week’s time) probably explains why they got awfully close to pulling a classic Pitt maneuver of doing terribly just before gritting out a gritty grit of a performance versus ND (author’s note: I may be writing this on Thursday evening after watching Pitt go full Pitt). However, in a surprising turn of events, Temple created turnovers and scored 14 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to make the Pirates of East Carolina walk the plank. I know walking the plank seems kinda lame, but that can’t be any lamer than a freaking Pirate in East Carolina. Despite winning by 10, the warning signs for the Owls were all around: Temple had fewer first downs, a worse third down conversion rate, less time of possession, fewer rushing yards, fewer passing yards, and more penalties than East Carolina in the win. This was the second time already this season that Temple needed some breaks and 4th quarter magic to salvage a win. In their third game of the year Temple needed a field goal with just 7 seconds remaining to turn a loss into a win over UMass.
Team Talent: We here at HLS are a big fan of team work. Turns out, Bayou was so dang excited about talking talent that he spent a whole lot of words (and one Paris Hilton YouTube clip…not thinking of the children) doing just that yesterday. His #SportsMath had Notre Dame as roughly 81% more talented based on aggregate stars from Rivals. Using the 5-year 247 Sports Composite class ranks yields an even greater depth discrepancy as raw recruiting points suggest ND nearly doubles Temple every recruiting cycle. This should come as no great surprise. By talent, Temple is the third worst team ND will face this year (ahead of only UMass and Navy). Their team approach has allowed them to exceed raw roster talent, but on paper, this is the exact type of match-up ND should be able to win simply by applying consistent pressure and exploiting physical advantages.
- Extra Rest: Both teams are coming off of extra rest. Temple’s game versus East Carolina was a Thursday night affair. In 2014, Temple had 4 games where they received 9 or more days between games and went 2-2. However, one of those victories was over FCS opponent Delaware State. The Irish, as you might recall from your time reconnecting with loved ones and family last weekend, are coming off a bye. Excluding Bowl Game layoffs, the Irish are 6-1 under Brian Kelly coming off a bye week.
- 9/13/15: That was the date of Temple’s last game versus an opponent that presently has a winning record. Because I’m not a fraud, I’m comfortable acknowledging this statistic is manipulated a bit given that East Carolina sits at 4-4 and was 4-3 at the time Temple played them last weekend. Temple’s only win versus a team better than a game over .500 was their opener versus a mediocre Penn State. Penn State may sit at 6-2, but they’ve played just 2 teams with a winning record and lost both games. Doing some quick research, no one’s impressed with Temple’s schedule – College Football Reference has their SOS as 105/128 teams. Team Rankings currently has theirs at 83rd. Prediction Machine has it at 108th, and Sagarin is the low man rating Temple’s schedule 111th nationally. This isn’t meant to take anything away from what Matt Rhule and the Owls have accomplished. However, there’s not a lot to fear here either. This is a massive shift in team talent that Temple is about to see.
- Dominant Wins: I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but BCF Toys Massey index says that Elite teams (the teams really in the hunt for a National Title) win games versus all FBS opponents by 25+ points 45% of the time. That means ND needs 5 such wins this season to “look” like an Elite team. Assuming they’re not likely to get one of those types of wins versus a solid Stanford team on the road, Notre Dame needs to have 3 such wins in their next 4 games to stay on pace. While this will be the last ranked team ND plays prior to Stanford, it may also be a better shot to get a dominant win than at Pitt next week. With that in mind, I’m going to call for ND to win and win big. I think this team is Elite or very close to it. They’re not flawlesss, but they’re in the part of the schedule that was always circled as their time to get healthy. Temple’s been flirting with a disaster for weeks. It might finally be here.