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Notre Dame Football 2015 Off-Season Preview: Temple Owls

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So we meet again, Owl.

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

TEMPLE OWLS

2014 Record: 6-6

F/+ Rank: 67

Wins: Vanderbilt, Delaware State, UConn, Tulsa, East Carolina, Tulane

Losses: Navy, Houston, UCF, Memphis, Penn State, Cincinnati

~~~

Season Recap

The Owls won 4 out of their first 5 games starting with a 37-7 drubbing of what we would learn to be a terrible Vanderbilt team. They lost by a touchdown to Navy but then rolled off 3 straight wins, including a 2-0 start in AAC play.

Then, Temple's offense nosedived scoring 14 or fewer points in 5 more losses which doesn't include a season-ending 10-3 win over Tulane. Thanks to 5 lost fumbles--and despite being out-gained 428 to 135--the Owls upset East Carolina 20-10 in early November.

Series: 1-0-0 Notre Dame

Notre Dame opened the 2013 season against Temple in 2013 in the first ever meeting between these schools. The Irish piled up 543 yards and took a 21-6 lead into halftime but only scored one additional touchdown in the second half to secure a 28-6 blah win.

This is the back end of a home-and-home series originally scheduled for last season but moved to 2015 to accommodate Notre Dame's new ACC scheduling agreement.

Coach Resume: Matt Rhule (8-16, 3rd Year)

Temple had a very young but promising team in Rhule's first year and stumbled to a 2-10 record. Last year, things got much better with a .500 record and 6th place finish in the American Athletic Conference.

Al Golden was said to have worked some miracles in Philadelphia during his last two seasons with Temple. Those 2009-10 teams finished 60th and 69th in F/+ and last year's team under Rhule ended up at 67th so you can see the program is hovering around the same area heading into 2015.

Returning Starters: 18 Total (8 Offense, 10 Defense)

A lot of pieces return from a bad offense and every starter was going to be back on defense until safety Jihaad Pretlow transferred to Fordham.

Linemen Situation: Great

Rising 5th-year senior Jacob Quinn started the last 3 games at right guard and has transferred to Delaware for his graduate season. Junior left tackle Dion Dawkins was one of 2 football players arrested for assault earlier this spring but the charges were dropped in late April only to be re-filed by the District Attorney's office. Dawkins started 11 games and it's unclear if he'll fully return to the program as he faces trial on felony aggravated assault and conspiracy charges, although he was ruled not guilty by Temple's Student Conduct Board and has been able to return to classes and participate in football activities.

Everyone else from 2014 returns, though. Senior Shahbaz Ahmed started 8 games at left guard and one at left tackle. Redshirt sophomores Semaj Reed and Leon Johnson each started one game at left guard. Senior Kyle Friend returns after starting every game at center. Redshirt junior Brendan McGowan started 8 games at right guard and two at left guard. Redshirt sophomore Brian Carter notched 2 starts at right guard while 5th-year senior Eric Lofton returns after starting every game at right tackle.

Temple lost no one from their defensive line, although redshirt junior DE Haason Reddick (2 starts, 7.5 TFL, 2 sacks) was part of the assault arrest with Dawkins.

Redshirt junior Praise Martin-Oguike (11 starts, 9.5 TFL, 7 sacks) and junior Sharif Finch (10 starts, 7.5 TFL, 2 sacks) are the main defensive ends coming back. On the interior, senior Matt Ioannidis (12 starts, 11 TFL, 3.5 sacks) and 5th-year senior Hershey Walton (9 starts, 4.5 TFL) return at tackle. A handful of players started a few games between them last year and will add depth, plus JUCO transfer Greg Webb is expected to contribute at tackle, too.

Returning Quarterback: Yes

Then redshirt junior Connor Reilly was the quarterback who started against Notre Dame in the 2013 opener but he lost his job to then true freshman P.J. Walker by October that season.

Walker finished out 2013 reasonably well and held off Reilly in the pre-season last year, as well. However, things have gone down hill since the Tulsa game of last fall as Temple's run game has offered zero support for a young quarterback. Walker finished the last 8 games of 2014 without ever completing over 54.3% of his passes in any single game while throwing just 6 touchdowns to 12 interceptions.

Redshirt freshman Logan Marchi established himself as the backup during spring practice.

Biggest Problem for 2015: Finding Something on Offense

I mentioned Temple's struggling offense in the season recap above. Their rankings were absolutely brutal. As follows: 100th in scoring, 110th in rushing average, 116th in yards-per-play, 94th in rushing S&P, 106th in passing S&P, and 116th or worse in each of offensive efficiency, first down rate, available yards, explosive drives, methodical drives, and value drives.

Nowhere to go but up, I suppose.

Biggest Strength for 2015: Defense

Temple's defense was way better than you think and they are bringing back almost everyone. More on this below.

Offensive Scheme: Multiple Spread

Marcus Satterfield came to Temple in 2013 from Tennessee-Chattanooga where he was the OC for 4 seasons. His self-described "pro spread" does a lot of different things. What they were doing last year was similar to Notre Dame in 2012 except with more lead blockers in the backfield. They try to take advantage of P.J. Walker's athleticism both off play-action from under center and occasionally using the read option.

4 Players to Remember

RB T.J. Simmons, Fr.- Temple rotated 3 tailbacks last year without much success and loses one of them for 2015. Simmons was a one-time UCLA commit (also carried a Notre Dame offer) who chose the Owls on Signing Day and could be good enough to be playing when Temple hosts the Irish.

WR Adonis Jennings, So.- Four-star recruit who caught 6 passes for Pitt last before transferring to Temple this off-season during the coaching regime change in the Steel City. Applying for a waiver to play immediately and could bolster Temple's passing attack.

LB Tyler Matakevich, Sr.- Temple's weak-side linebacker going for the rarefied air of 4 straight seasons of 100+ tackles. Totaled 10.5 tackles for loss last season and is on the NFL radar as one of the better linebackers in the country.

CB Kareem Ali, Fr.- Early enrollee freshman who played in the U.S. Army All-American game. With Pretlow transferring, the Owls may move a corner to safety which could open the door for Ali to start or see significant minutes in his first season.

Special Teams: 4/4

Rising sophomore Austin Jones is back at kicker following a debut season hitting 13 out of 22 field goals. Another rising sophomore in Alex Starzyk is back as the punter.

Several players shared punt return duties and all are back, while two main kick returners in Khalif Herbin and Jahad Thomas are back, as well.

Uniforms: 7/10

Temple uniform

Derik Hamilton, USA Today Sports

Temple's standard uniform pictured above is pretty sharp, bonus points if you noticed the TV numbers are on the sleeves of the QB and the shoulders of the lineman. The pattern on the collar and pants are great, nothing is cluttered, and the matte helmet is nice.

Beyond this, some other things have been introduced that don't improve upon this look. There's a white owl feather helmet--which they wore against Notre Dame in 2013. Black jerseys and pants are in the closet. This secondary helmet with script on it sucks, plus another script helmet that's indecipherable beyond 4 feet. However, a helmet with a diamond is pretty unique and worthwhile.

What's To Like About the Matchup

Notre Dame will be coming off a bye week. Without major improvement on offense the odds are overwhelmingly against Temple winning.

What's Not To Like About the Matchup

Temple will have some extra rest playing on Thursday the week prior. Their defense could be quite stingy. The atmosphere inside Lincoln Financial Field might put Notre Dame to sleep.

Opponent Power Ranking Based on Irish Schedule: 10th Toughest

Everyone is probably wondering if Temple is any better or worse than back in 2013. If their defense is any indication they will be better.

Temple finished 31st overall in FEI defense--better than Michigan State, Nebraska, Auburn, UCLA, Oklahoma, among others. Of course, that mark was better than Notre Dame whose ranking tanked in the second half of the season to 54th overall.

With practically everyone returning on defense and the same players who have already played inside Notre Dame Stadium now 2 years older I don't know if the Irish will put up 543 yards and 8.76 YPP like they did back in 2013. Then again, Notre Dame might not have that much production but still might score more than 28 points. It's weird how things work sometimes.

Can Temple get a serviceable offense going, though?

Temple finished 117th in FEI offense in 2014. I don't need to make comparisons to Kansas, or UConn, or Vanderbilt from last year to tell you how bad that is for a program. It'd be shocking if an offense this bad beat Notre Dame and surprising if Temple improves enough on this side of the ball to stay competitive with the Irish.

Their defense is intriguing, and while they're solid in the advanced stats, I don't know if Temple has enough to overcome what is probably going to be, at best, a very, very below average offense.