Predicting Notre Dame's Stats vs. Temple

Connor Killoren@@Connor_KillorenSenior Analyst IAugust 27, 2013

Aug 9, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive tackle Zack Martin (70) pauses during practice at the LaBar Practice Complex. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Numbers never lie.

It's a universal truth relevant to the sports world in the form of statistics, which fans are all too keen of poring over and over analyzing.

Yet one arena of statistics that rarely receives attention or thoughtful discussion is the prediction of what numbers will be churned out by the time the game clock expires. While such a task is prone to spark disagreement and healthy doses of verbal confrontation, doing so provides those individuals with a more candid view of the matchup in question.

This time around, the discussion centers around the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame beginning their 2013-14 season against the Temple Owls in South Bend, Ind., Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. EDT. 

It's widely known that the Irish defense will reprise its role as one of the nation's most formidable bunches, leading to many to ponder how the Irish offense will fare in the wake of former starting quarterback Everett Golson's suspension for the fall term due to an academic snafu.

In fact, Golson's dismissal dropped Notre Dame to a 50-to-1 favorite to win the 2014 BCS National Championship Game, per Bovada.

That's a direct shot at Tommy Rees, who was named as the Irish's starting quarterback in June.

He and his cohorts on the offensive side of the ball have their first of 12 opportunities to silence the critics against the Owls, with the ensuing statistics of the game likely to be eye-popping.


Tommy Rees, QB

Rees understands he has a negative perception to shed.

After accounting for 19 of Notre Dame's 29 turnovers as the Irish's starting quarterback during the 2011-12 season, Rees lost his job to Golson during 2012 fall camp.

Rees' journey to redemption begins Saturday against a Temple defense that finished the 2012-13 season ranked No. 100 nationally in rushing defense. And if you've been following Notre Dame football, you know Rees typically experiences success against lackluster rushing defenses because he's not forced to move the ball without the help of the running game.

With the Irish installing a few packages featuring the pistol formation, Rees will be playing to, perhaps, his most obvious strength—moving methodically down the field through intermediate passing routes.

If Rees avoids turning the ball over, he'll produce a satisfactory stat line.

Prediction: 24-30, 305 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.


Running Backs

Having solidified himself as Notre Dame's No. 1 running back, George Atkinson III should be expected to receive the lion's share of the carries Saturday afternoon. 

Head coach Brian Kelly is certainly confident in the Stockton, Calif., native.

#NotreDame HC Brian Kelly on G. Atkinson: "He's continued to get better. He's stronger. …He hasn't done anything to take that [job] away."

— Dan Murphy (@BGI_DanMurphy) August 27, 2013

Yet Atkinson III will likely be relieved, especially if the score gets out of hand.

Greg Bryant, Cam McDaniel and Amir Carlisle are listed collectively at No. 2 running back on the initial depth chart that was released by the university today, with each likely to receive multiple carries against the Owls. 

Atkinson III: 20 carries, 135 yards, two touchdowns; three receptions, 30 yards

Bryant: Five carries, 30 yards

McDaniel: Seven carries, 27 yards

Carlisle: 10 carries, 55 yards; two receptions, 15 yards



Without the presence of an all-universe receiver for the first time in the Kelly era (remember Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert?), TJ Jones has been charged with becoming the Irish's clear No. 1 receiver. 

Yet the supporting cast around Jones isn't a group to be scoffed at.

DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown, Daniel Smith, Corey Robinson, James Onwualu and Co. are each threats in their own right.

But with more of an emphasis on running the ball against an inferior defense, the receiving numbers won't be of the jaw-dropping variety. Jones and Daniels will be the Irish's two leading receivers on the afternoon.

Jones: 10 receptions, 105 yards, one touchdown

Daniels: Five receptions, 75 yards


Tight Ends

In the absence of Eifert, the tight end position at Notre Dame has become more of a run-blocking unit than a pass-catching bunch. 

Massive No. 1 tight end Troy Niklas, a 6'7", 270-pound behemoth, gives Notre Dame, virtually, an additional offensive lineman who is also capable as red zone receiving target.  

What fans should keep an eye on is how well fellow tight end Ben Koyack has improved as a run-blocker, and how Alex Welch has recovered from an ACL tear that held him out all of last season.

Niklas: Three receptions, 21 yards, one touchdown

Welch: One reception, six yards



Matching up against the Irish defense will be a humbling experience for a newly redesigned Temple offense constructed by first-year head coach Matt Rhule.

Not surprisingly, the Owls will struggle to run the football against a stout Irish front seven led by massive defensive linemen Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt.

Thus, Temple will become a one-dimensional offense consistently facing three-and-out.

Expect the Irish defense to play the majority of the game in its base 3-4 scheme, with a few basic four-man fronts sprinkled in to include Ishaq Williams as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end.

Prediction: Defense will allow less than 40 rushing yards, just less than 200 passing yards and will yield just 10 points.





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