Date: Aug. 31, at Notre Dame
Notre Dame will begin its attempt to recapture the magic of the 2012 season when it opens at home with Temple Aug. 31.
This will be the first meeting in football between the two schools. The return match is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 11, 2014 in Philadelphia.
Few FBS programs in history ever experienced a worse stretch on the field than the one the Owls had in the 18 consecutive sub-.500 seasons from 1991-2008 when they were 40-163 (.197), forcing them to drop out of the Big East because of poor attendance and lack of competitiveness. Temple was an Independent in 2005-06 and was in the Mid-American Conference from 2007-11 before rejoining the Big East last season.
Current Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden helped lead the program back to respectability before rookie head coach Steve Addazio built on it with a 9-4 record in 2011 that included a victory over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl, its first postseason win in 32 years and second ever.
In 2012, Temple was picked to finish last in the Big East, but it opened 2-0 in the league with wins against South Florida (37-28) and UConn (17-14) for a 3-2 overall mark. The Owls then lost their last five games in the Big East by an average of 25 points (none by less than 18).
Top Offseason Note
After two seasons, Addazio — a Notre Dame offensive line coach in 1999-01 — accepted the head coaching position at Boston College.
New head coach Matt Rhule was an assistant at Temple from 2006-11 before going to the NFL for one season. The 38-year-old Rhule had been an offensive line assistant for the New York Giants in 2012. He was a linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97.
The Owls return eight starters on offense and seven on defense but are also experiencing a major youth movement. In last year’s 38-20 loss to Syracuse in the season finale, Temple played 13 true freshmen and six red-shirt freshmen, three of them along the offensive line.
Linebacker is projected as perhaps the top team strength with the return of Tyler Matakevich, whose 101 tackles (67 solo) as a true freshman in 2012 paced the team. Complementing him is Nate D. Smith, who was second in stops (75) as a redshirt freshman last year, and led the team in tackles for loss (6.5) and forced fumbles (3).
Cornerback Tavon Young, another true freshman in 2012, is deemed as having future NFL potential.
Offensively, center Kyle Friend started every game along the line last season as a true freshman, although the first seven were at right guard.
The glamour positions on offense are open, especially filling the void left by running backs Montel Harris (formerly at Boston College) and Matt Brown. Harris rushed for 1,054 yards and 5.7 yards per carry last year and was ably complemented by Brown (6.2 yards per attempt).
No returning running back had more than 94 yards rushing, and the top rusher, quarterback Chris Coyer (444 yards), was yanked last season in favor of Clinton Granger (206 yards), who started the last two games but also was inserted on other occasions. No one caught more than 30 passes, part of why it was 116th in passing offense with only 120.8 yards per game. Even with Harris and Brown in the backfield, Temple was 107th in total offense with a 322-yard average.
Defensively, Temple finished 100th against the run while surrendering 199.82 yards per contest.
There is also a huge void to fill in the kicking game with the graduation of kicker/punter Brandon McManus, who helped Temple finish 6th last year in net punting. He departed as the school's leader in field goals made (60) and punting average (45.4).
This is the ideal way to begin the season: A game where you will likely be favored by three to four touchdowns, yet an opponent that at least comes from a BCS conference.
Golden resuscitated the program and took it off life support, but now it has to start over again with a third head coach in four years while trying to find consistency at quarterback and most everywhere else.
The Irish opened last season with a 50-10 win against Navy. Maybe this opener might not have as much a disparity in the score, but the expectation might be for something similar.
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