#14 Notre Dame (0-0) v. Temple (0-0)
Notre Dame Stadium – South Bend, IN – 3:30 EST On NBC
First Things – As Irish fans we all head into relatively unfamiliar territory with the 2013 season opener upon us. What do we do with a team who spent an entire twelve game schedule reaching and exceeding all expectations? No letdowns against bitter rivals. No losses to inferior opponents. Epic rise to the occasion battles against elite programs. A team that was clearly the toughest on the field during every big moment. All we could have ever wanted from September through December. Notre Dame hasn't lost a regular season game in 21 months! ND is 20-2 over their last 22 regular season games. Where do our expectations even stand heading into the season? The national perception of "Notre Dame was lucky last year … REALLY lucky" doesn't seem to be permeating for those of us paying attention. Even with the losses of 2012 stalwarts Te'o, Eifert, Riddick, Wood, and Golson – the progression of depth over Brian Kelly's tenure leads us to believe that the best is maybe yet to come. The losses to injury and recruiting woes can be overcome. Notre Dame Football has built the foundation and erected the walls of a consistent national power. The finish work is what remains on a roster built to succeed for the foreseeable future.
January 7th, 2012 was not the reality check many would like us to believe. Alabama took a phenomenal group of football players to Miami and played a flawless first half. It was less about Notre Dame not being prepared or overwhelmed and more about Notre Dame facing a group executing at levels rarely seen in the college game. Alabama would likely have beaten any team in the past decade if they came out firing on all cylinders like they did that evening. As a fan of football, the game is worth re-watching for the sheer spectacle of perfection on many of the plays. It's doubtful that even with a few questionable calls going the Irish's way that the score would have been within 21 points at the break. The bigger point, in relation to previewing the season, is that Notre Dame was there and they earned it and deserved it.
College Football fans thinking the National Championship Game was some type of "exposure" of the Irish program are living in a delusional state outside reality. The ever changing tides of the game have shifted and drawn the blue and gold back into their place at the big boy trough. 2013 may not end with another undefeated slate, but the possibility is no longer far-fetched or surprising. Fans, and more importantly players, EXPECT to win every game again and the attitude that some of us are lucky enough to remember is taking shape in the form of expected dominance. Let's enjoy this ride.
Here come the Temple Owls. They arrive off a 4-7 season, the loss of their coach, their best offensive weapon, and all the luster from Al Golden's 17 wins between 2009-10 . Temple matches up extremely poorly with Notre Dame in every facet on paper. Their 2012 QB is now a tight end. Their 2012 tight end is now a offensive tackle. The Owls head to South Bend ill-suited to take on an emerging power who could win the game only playing second teamers. The match-up reeks of a blowout barely worth mentioning on Sportscenter.
Predictions on this game teeter on two schools of thought: 1. Does Notre Dame have "something to prove" after the shellacking at the hands of Alabama? 2. Does Brian Kelly want to keep it simple while securing the playbook another week before Michigan? But seriously – what does Notre Dame accomplish if they win by 35? By 45? By 75? You know it's a big glass of absolutely nothing. While 2012's mantra of "by any means necessary" shouldn't need to apply to Temple, the game-plan certainly applies to Michigan. I'm leaning towards a belief that Brian Kelly trusts what he sees in practice and doesn't feel the need to let it rip this Saturday.
–Previously in the previews I would list "Five Things To Watch" between the opening tangent and my brief predictions. I've made that a separate weekly post. Read it here.
Predicting The Game & What We'll See
It's Week 1. While the Irish offense in 2013 may prove to be more explosive over the course of 12 games than last season's edition, let's not get it twisted and expect a flawless performance by a unit trotting out seven different starters and a lot of new moving parts. Tommy Rees is going to miss a routine pass. A running back is going to miss a hole and wide receiver will run the wrong route after an audible. Between these missteps we will be privy to some gashing runs by multiple backs, a ball snatched from the air by an Irish tight end over a defender half his size, and what appears to be Tommy Rees making smart decisions and checking into better plays.
The 1st team Notre Dame defense will live up to the expectations. There is too much brute strength, experience, and athletic talent for Temple to handle. The mismatches along the line will be evident quickly and during nearly every play. Temple will run screens, draws, and quick swing passes on half of their first dozen plays in an attempt to slow down Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix & Sheldon Day. Jaylon Smith will make his first big play after badly beating a Temple wide receiver's block in the 1st quarter. Temple IS going to score though as the second and third stringers get into the action. KeiVarae Russell was a Freshman All-America and it's easy to forget he was badly beaten for a TD in 2012's opener by a much less talented WR from NAVY. That catch spurred the Midshipmen's 117th ranked Passing Offense last year. It's Bob Diaco and Brian Kelly's desire to get the youngsters on the field that will result in the Irish not covering this 29.5 point spread.
George Atkinson dominates the first half, approaches 100 yards, and scores twice. Tommy Rees hits Troy Niklas a handful of times but it's Davaris Daniels who grabs the season's first aerial touchdown and the first of his career on a beautifully executed fade pattern. Stephon Tuitt & Prince Shembo start a Roger Maris & Mickey Mantle like chase towards Justin Tuck's single-season sack record when each total 1.5 QB takedowns in the 1st half. Temple gets next to nothing going when the starters are on the field and Notre Dame heads to the locker room up 24-0 at the half. The second half features most of the roster and less aggressive play-calling by Chuck Martin. Cam McDaniel leads the rushing attack and Corey Robinson makes his first catches. Greg Bryant finds the running room a little tight at the end of the game with a mostly freshman line in front of him. McDaniel scores once and Andrew Hendrix pounds in a rushing TD to cap the scoring. A young defender gets an earful from Bob Diaco as the Temple starters take advantage of a mistake and punch one in late to end the scoring.
Notre Dame (-29.5)
Herring Bone Says Take Notre Dame & The Under
Notre Dame 38, Temple 7 – FINAL
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