Notre Dame comes off its bye week to face the undefeated Temple Owls in a primetime clash on Halloween night. The Irish are double digit favorites versus Temple; however, the Owls will be ready to play as this is the biggest games in the program’s history. Temple head coach Matt Rhule has built a very efficient team that won’t beat itself so the Irish will need to execute and limit turnovers. Expect the Irish to be focused as they know they need to win all of the remaining games on their schedule and look impressive doing so to have a chance at the college football playoffs. The following are the matchups the Irish must control to knock-off the Owls:
Jaylon Smith versus Jahad Thomas
Elite Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith will be responsible for shutting down the main weapon in the Temple offense, Jahad Thomas. Thomas is a former cornerback who is a threat both rushing and receiving the ball out of the backfield. The junior is the Owls leading rusher and second-leading receiver with 13 total touchdowns on the season. Smith however, should be more than up to the task of neutralizing Thomas. If the Irish junior can hold Thomas under his season average of just under 150 yards from scrimmage it should equal a Notre Dame victory.
KeiVarae Russell versus Robby Anderson
Following his best game of the season KeiVarae Russell will be in charge of covering Temple’s leading receiver Robby Anderson. Anderson is the Owls only legitimate receiving threat, with five touchdowns on the season while averaging just over 55 yards receiving per game. Anderson is another converted cornerback and he has good height at 6’3’’. If Russell can eliminate the big play its unlikely Anderson will be able to consistently get open against him; leaving Temple quarterback P.J. Walker in trouble.
C.J. Prosise versus Tyler Matakevich
Notre Dame’s first half MVP C.J. Prosise will become familiar with an elite linebacker in Temple’s Tyler Matakevich. Matakevich is the Owls’ leader and is about as important to Temple as any player in the country is to their team. The senior linebacker has registered over 100 tackles in the last three seasons and is well on his way this season with 65 so far to go along with four sacks and four interceptions. As usual it well be an emphasis for the Irish to run the ball, so Prosise must match the physicality of Matakevich. If Prosise can do this he will be able to rack up big yardage, especially as the game goes on.
Will Fuller versus Sean Chandler
Notre Dame’s other elite offensive weapon, Will Fuller, will look to have another big game versus Sean Chandler. Chandler is a solid sophomore cover corner with two interceptions and a team-high seven pass breakups for the Owls. Fuller’s elite speed should allow him to get behind the aggressive Chandler for some big plays. Chandler will likely need safety help often against Fuller, and if he does that will open up the field for the rest of Notre Dame’s weapons.