The first thing Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said to Temple’s Matt Rhule when he greeted him for a post-game handshake in 2013 was: “You have a good football team.” Much of that was coachspeak, but Kelly had the right assessment in the wrong year. Many of the players who played for Temple in that 28-6 loss are back for this year’s nationally televised game and there are five signs that point to this one ending differently.
- The Rise of Memphis
Nobody thought fellow AAC member Memphis had a chance against an Ole Miss team that went to Alabama and waxed the Tide on the road, but the Tigers used a home field advantage in the Liberty Bowl and dominated Mississippi, 37-24. Memphis needed a field goal at the gun to beat Temple last year, 16-13. Ole Miss is arguably better than Notre Dame. Temple is arguably better than Memphis now.
- The Last Game
Even though the Owls finished the 2013 season 2-10, an Irish team which finished 8-4 was not able to take them to the woodshed. With a first-year coach and many first-year starters, the game was 14-6 until 43 seconds remained in the first half. In the second half, the two teams played fairly evenly and the 28-6 score was respectable. Even though this ND team is better than that one, the Owls are exponentially better.
- The GameDay Effect
This will be the first visit by ESPN’s College GameDay to Temple and first-time hosts have a 40-25 record. The first thing Temple athletic director Pat Kraft did when he learned the show was coming was to procure an extra head of Hooter, the team’s mascot, for show host Lee Corso to have under his desk. On the other hand, the Luck of the Leprechaun has produced four losses in the last four Irish GameDay appearances.
- ECU’s Game With Florida
Temple went into Dowdy-Ficken Stadium and came away with a 10-point win over East Carolina, the only home loss of the season for the Pirates. ECU is a good team which lost by a touchdown in the swamp to Florida, 31-24, a similar team in skill set to Notre Dame. If the Owls can handle that kind of foe on the road, they can certainly operate more comfortably in the friendly environment of Lincoln Financial Field.
- Analytics Favor Owls
The Owls rank No. 5 in the nation in one of the most important statistics, scoring defense (14.6 ppg), ahead of Ohio State and Clemson, and it is no fluke as they returned all 11 starters from a defense that finished No. 4 a year ago. Notre Dame ranks No. 14 in scoring offense (38.3 ppg). The Irish should have a tough time scoring against this defense and, if you cannot score, you cannot win.