Notre Dame-Temple Preview
Notre Dame's trio of players from the Philadelphia area will be the center of attention this weekend.
There's no guarantee of a happy homecoming for Mike McGlinchey, Will Fuller and Josh Adams since they'll be facing an unbeaten Temple team off to the best start in school history.
The No. 21 Owls will try to improve to 8-0 and ruin Saturday night for the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish's returning stars at a sold-out Lincoln Financial Field.
Matt Rhule's first game as Temple coach was a 28-6 loss at Notre Dame to open 2013. His squad went 2-10 that year and 6-6 a season ago before emerging in 2015 with the program's first national ranking since 1979.
Saturday's contest represents another chance to gauge the Owls' progress.
"Obviously we're excited about this week, as I know everybody is," Rhule said. "A tremendous opportunity to play a great team in Notre Dame, a team we had a chance to play two years ago. They're probably still a national title contender even though they lost one game by a point or two points. They're loaded, they're absolutely fantastic."
The Fighting Irish (6-1) bring in three key players from the area. They will practice at Philadelphia's William Penn Charter School, where McGlinchey - a starter on the offensive line - went to high school.
"They will have to settle into the game and they will," coach Brian Kelly said. "They have played in some big venues. They understand that there's going to be some excitement about it. And I'm sure they will be excited, but they are going to have to settle into the game."
Fuller is averaging 100.3 receiving yards to rank 14th in the nation with eight touchdowns. His big-play potential has been evident with an average of 21.9 yards per catch for the seventh-best mark in the FBS.
"I don't know that anybody has slowed down Will Fuller," Rhule said. "It's just every game, you see him over and over again."
Adams will see the least action among the trio since the freshman running back is second on the team with 265 rushing yards. C.J. Prosise has a team-high 922 yards on the ground with 11 scores, with his five 100-yard efforts the most by a Notre Dame player since Darius Walker had six in 2006.
DeShone Kizer has thrown for 10 scores and ran for three more since taking over at quarterback when Malik Zaire was injured in a 34-27 win at Virginia on Sept. 12.
He'll be up against a stout Owls defense that is yielding 307.0 yards per game for the 14th-best mark in the country. Temple is allowing 14.6 points to rank eighth in the FBS and is tied for fifth with 12 interceptions.
"They have a really good offensive line, really solid up front, they have a really strong tailback and our defense is going to match up well against them," Temple defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis said. "We're excited to play."
The Irish rank 50th in total defense, giving up 370.3 yards a game, and 39th in scoring defense (22.6 points per game). They allowed 590 yards to Southern California in their last game, a 41-31 win Oct. 17.
That unit may not be challenged much by an Owls team ranked 108th in total offense (345.9 ypg) and 51st in points scored (32.3).
Temple's P.J. Walker ranks fifth on the school's all-time list with 5,715 passing yards, throwing for 1,314 this year with nine TDs and three interceptions. His play is a major reason why the Owls are 13th in the nation in average time of possession at 33:11.
"I think from my perspective, somebody that manages their offense extremely well, can run the football, has the ability to push the ball down the field, athleticism, and you know, he doesn't turn the ball over," Kelly said.
Jahad Thomas leads the American Athletic Conference with 822 yards rushing with 12 scores. Robby Anderson has half of the Owls' 10 TD catches.
Anderson and Thomas scored fourth-quarter TDs for the final points of the Owls' last contest, a 24-14 win at East Carolina on Oct. 22.
A frenzied atmosphere is expected with ESPN's "College Gameday" taking place in downtown Philadelphia during the day before a pro-Irish crowd shows up at Lincoln Financial Field, the fourth city venue to host Notre Dame along with Franklin Field, JFK Stadium and Veterans Stadium.
"I think it will be an outstanding environment to play in," Kelly said. "It won't take much to get our guys excited about it."
Notre Dame is 15-0 on Halloween.