Temple's defense can shut down the Fighting Irish
The premier matchup in Week 9 is between Notre Dame and Temple. The undefeated Owls host the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish in a battle between a storied football powerhouse and an overlooked team out of the American Athletic Conference. Which squad will earn the victory in Philadelphia on Saturday?
The Notre Dame offense has scored 30 or more points in every game this season beside the heartbreaking loss to Clemson. They rank in the top-10 of our overall offense grades and have leaned on the successful running game spearheaded by running back C.J. Prosise.
Prosise (+18.5 overall grade) is our seventh-ranked running back and has shouldered the offensive load for Notre Dame after Tarean Folston was lost to injury in the win over Texas. Prosise is a bigger back (6-1, 220 pounds) with great balance and has rushed for 272 yards and five touchdowns in his past two contests.
Injuries have hit the Irish offense hard, but the next men up have filled in admirably. Redshirt freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer is someone who was thrust into duty when starting quarterback Malik Zaire went down earlier this season. Kizer has a respectable ten-to-four touchdown-to-interception ratio, and while he hasn’t lit up the stat sheet, he has avoided crippling mistakes.
The main reason Kizer has been able to depend on a successful run game and have ample time to air it out the receiving corps is the play of the offensive line; mainly the left side of the line. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard Quenton Nelson and center Nick Martin all rank in the top 25 at their position and are the highest-graded players on the Notre Dame offense behind Prosise.
Junior wide receiver Will Fuller leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns and is returning to his hometown in this contest. The premier deep threat for the Fighting Irish averages 21.9 yards per catch (which ranks 15th in the country) and is building a stronger rapport with Kizer each week. The top four wide receivers (Amir Carlisle, Chris Brown and Torii Hunter, Jr.) all have positive grades and are big play threats on every down.
Temple’s defense, which is allowing a measly 14.6 points per game, is the keystone for their undefeated record. They opened the country’s eyes when they defeated Penn State in the season-opener, and have smothered every opponent since. The strongest position group has been the defensive line and our highest-graded pass rush (+60.6).
The defensive line is led by senior defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis. He is the highest-graded player on the Owls’ defense is the best pass rushing defensive tackle in the nation with a +17.8 pass rush grade. Redshirt junior defensive end Haason Reddick is another force with a team-high 13 quarterback hits to go along with three sacks.
Temple has a productive group of linebackers with four-year starter Tyler Matakevich leading the way. He is a tackling machine (active FBS leader in career tackles) and grades in the top-10 at his position along with Nate D. Smith. Smith, a redshirt senior, leads the Owls in sacks with 6.5 and may be the most versatile player on the defense.
The secondary has our fourth-highest pass coverage grade (+28.6) and the main catalyst for this lofty ranking is sophomore cornerback Sean Chandler. The youngest member of this unit is our 14th-ranked cornerback (+9.2 overall grade) and has exceeded expectations on a unit littered with experience.
Notre Dame offense wins if…
The offensive line can slow down the relentless Temple pass rush and continue to run the ball with great success. Prosise is a tough and hard-nosed runner and will be the player Temple game plans for. Kizer needs to evade pressure and rack up running yards in addition to completing a deep strike or two in the passing game. If Notre Dame can avoid long third downs, they should be able to keep the play-calling balanced.
Temple defense wins if…
The defensive line and linebackers clog every gap in the running game and refuse to let Prosise get to the second and third levels of the defense. When he gets a full head of steam, he is a terrifying runner to bring down. The signature pass rush needs to create pressure and prevent Kizer from progressing through his reads and finding Will Fuller deep. If Temple can overwhelm Kizer and bottle up Prosise, they will stay undefeated.
Prediction: Temple over Notre Dame
Temple is only allowing 91.9 rushing yards per game and they hold Prosise under the century mark. Kizer takes a beating and turns the ball over more than once. The hometown crowd fills Lincoln Financial Field and the Owls’ defense feeds off of the energy on their way to another victory and an 8-0 record.