T-minus 20 minutes ’til it’s officially football season in South Bend.
Notre Dame hosts first-time opponent Temple at 3:30 p.m. It’s raining and the sky looks ominous, but the press box announcers say that the lightning looks to be moving south of here. That’s good news. We don’t need a repeat of South Florida in 2011.
Temple is a first-time opponent for Notre Dame, so it’s difficult to nail down exactly what to expect from the Owls. Avery Maehrer of the Temple News shed some light on the Owls and new coach Matt Rhule. Notre Dame certainly has some compelling storylines heading into this game.
What to watch for:
- A quintet of running backs. George Atkinson III will make his first start in the offensive backfield, but expect to see several players lining up behind Tommy Rees in Notre Dame’s most loaded position. In a game where everyone can get a shot at the field, don’t be surprised to see Amir Carlisle, Greg Bryant, Cam McDaniel and even Tarean Folston early and often against Temple.
- Maybe, just maybe, the punt return team will produce positive yards. After years of floundering and fair catches, Notre Dame might actually have a decent punt return team. Tri-captain TJ Jones will be fielding punts for the Irish, and coaches say he’s pretty passionate about the job. We’ll see.
- A lot of new faces debuting in the starting lineup. From true freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith to senior safety Austin Collinsworth, the Irish roll out several first-time starters this season. Keep an eye on Smith, who is the top-ranked defensive recruit Notre Dame has snagged in the Rivals.com era, and receiver Chris Brown, who is trying to refine his skill to match his speed.
- What about the pistol? Even though Brian Kelly downplayed it during preseason camp, Notre Dame might implement this unique offensive package into its game plan sometime today. It’ll be a great way to showcase Atkinson’s speed against an opponent not known for its defensive prowess. “He ran downhill very well in high school, and we felt like the pistol could fit him very well,” Kelly said of Atkinson. ”Not just him, but we felt like it was something that could benefit us moving forward.”