We are almost there everybody. Tomorrow is gameday. One of the longest, most interesting off-seasons in recent Notre Dame football memory comes to a close and we can finally stop speculating about how all the changes will work and start to see it in action. That also means it’s time for me to fire up the weekly prediction post – at for as long as they are bearable to write. So let’s get into it. Same format as last year. Hopefully different results.
What Concerns Me This Week
Temple’s secondary – The Owls have a legit and deep secondary that will give the young Notre Dame wide receivers all they can handle – that is if the young wide receivers see the field over graduate transfers Cameron Smith and Freedy Canteen. I’m still skeptical but more on that later. Temple has athletes in their secondary and will very likely be aggressive with their front seven and leave their secondary one on one often. Notre Dame has a lot of talent at receiver but its still somewhat raw talent.
Temple’s wide receivers – Temple has some talented players at the offensive skill positions as well – most notably wide receiver. Notre Dame has some good corner depth for the first time in a while, but its when the safeties get matched up on receivers that worries me. Temple has a good wide receiving coprs featuring a couple of guys who may one day play on Sundays. The Notre Dame secondary is going to get tested out of the gate.
Notre Dame’s new offense – Long term I love the Chip Long hire but his offense is quite a bit different than Notre Dame’s with all of the short passing plays. Those kind of plays require a lot of timing and coordination. In week one, I worry that that timing might be just a bit off. I expect the Notre Dame offense to struggle early so if the Irish aren’t moving the ball right off the bat, don’t get too worried. If they are still struggling to move the ball in the 4th quarter. Worry. This offense could be dynamic, but it will have some growing pains.
Notre Dame’s defensive line – Because, well of course it does. Until the interior of the line shows that there is some depth behind Jerry Tiller and Jonathan Bonner, the inside of the Irish defensive line will be a conern.
Justin Yoon – Notre Dame needs Yoon to look like he did two years ago, but reports out of camp weren’t necessarily the most glowing on Yoon. Hopefully the junior is back to looking like the kid who only missed two field goals as a frosh.
What Doesn’t Concern Me This Week
Temple’s quarterback – If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have a quarterback. If you have four quarterbacks, you have a hot mess. Temple has been coy about their quarterback and it is still unclear who will get the start. The Owls will reportedly play multiple quarterbacks tomorrow regardless. Notre Dame tried that last year in the opener. Hey Temple, let me know how that works out for you.
Distractions from the new stadium – Notre Dame has been practicing inside Notre Dame Stadium more this year to get used to their new enviroment but really it’s not that much different for them other than having a jumbotron which they have seen before in every other stadium they have played in besides Notre Dame Stadium.
Temple’s trash talking – Temple’s trash talking this week was fun and all to follow but if anything I looked at is as a positive. Notre Dame is bigger, stronger, and faster across the board. That does not always equate to a victory as we saw last year with 4-8 but when you are playing a more talented team, the last thing you want to do is grab their attention. Hopefully Temple had Notre Dame’s full attention before a couple knuckleheads decided to give the Irish bulletin board material, but if they didn’t they do now. So good job Temple.
Notre Dame’s new defense – There are elements of the defense that worry me (like the interior of the defensive line) but I have been all in on Mike Elko since before he was hired and am not going to waver now. I can’t wait to see the Notre Dame defense tomorrow under his guidance. There will be breakdowns here and there and I’m sure there will still be some missed tackles, but there will also be a sound defensive philosophy on display and not some gimmicky grab bag 3-3-5 nonsense like we saw in Austin last Labor Day.
Players to Watch
Brandon Wimbush – This one is obvious but still worth noting given it’s the young man’s first career start. Everything we’ve heard and seen from Wimbush suggests that he will do just fine and that a Malik Zaire Texas 2015 type performance shouldn’t be surprising. Given Temple’s weakness on the defensive line, he might not be asked to do all that much, but I would be shocked if we didn’t get a look at his ridiculous arm strength at least a couple times. I’ll also be surprised if he doesn’t reach the endzone with his legs.
Daelin Hayes – Will he be the savior to Notre Dame’s pass rush? Temple’s offensive tackles aren’t the most athletic bunch so if he’s not able to get a pass rush tomorrow that doesn’t bode well for the season.
Jerry Tillery – It’s not that much hyperbole to say that the 2017 defense hinges on how improved Tillery is. Notre Dame needs him to step up and become a dominant force to have a chance to play the kind of defense it needs to to be a top 10 team. We’ll get a glimpse of just how improved Tillery is tomorrow. And let’s not forget, the last time we saw him, he wasn’t making plays but was making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Nick Coleman – Will the move to safety pan out? We should know early tomorrow. With Temple’s receivers and Coleman’s new position, it would be a shocker if the Owls didn’t test him early and often just like Texas did in last year’s season opener.
Shaun Crawford – Is he close to the same player he was before his last injury? Can Notre Dame keep Crawford on the field for more this year? This is a young man with a world of talent and ton of bad luck on the injury front. Everyone should be rooting for him tomorrow for reasons other than Notre Dame needing him to play well.
Alize Mack – How is that hamstring? Kelly and Wimbush said this week that Mack is 100% but it’s college football – there are no rules about accurately reporting on injuries. Mack can by a dynamic weapon for Notre Dame this year but they need him 100% and hamstring injuries for explosive players can linger. Just look at the case of Josh Adams in 2016.
Tommy Kraemer – A unit is only as strong as its weakest link and it’s safe to say Kraemer is the weakest link on the Notre Dame offensive line in 2017 simply because he’s never played a down of college football. His first rep against Temple will be his first rep in a live game since his senior year of high school. If Kraemer holds his own when Temple attacks him – and they will come at him – it will bode well for the offensive line in 2017.
Cameron Smith / Freddy Canteen – Are both graduate transfers really going to start? I just have a hard time imaging they will and if they do I don’t think it speaks well for the incumbent Notre Dame receivers. Yeah they aren’t the most experienced bunch outside of Equanimeous St. Brown, but between Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin, and Javon McKinley we’re talking about three highly talented players who have been at Notre Dame longer. That doesn’t event take into account Chris Finke, CJ Sanders, the freshmen (Jafar Armstrong & Michael Young), or the mercurial Kevin Stepherson.
Ok it’s prediction time. I just predicted every game this season with scores earlier this week so I won’t change my score prediction, but I will state again that this game will be a tough one for Notre Dame and is no gimme. If Notre Dame doesn’t come out tomorrow ready to play like we’ve seen all too often, they will lose. I’ve seen some predictions of Notre Dame winning by 20+ and while I’d love to see that happen, I just don’t see it actually happening. I think this will be a close game and like Ohio State last night, I can see Notre Dame losing at half time before rallying to win. Brandon Wimbush is going flash super star potential while also reminding us that he is still just making his first career start after all.
Game Week Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Temple 21
Pre-Season Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Temple 21