And in that corner… The Temple Owls

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Notre Dame opens its season with a visit from the Temple Owls, with first-year head coach Matt Rhule looking to return the program to the heights it reached under head coach Al Golden. Rhule was there for Golden’s epic rebuilding job, helping to turn an Owl program that had fallen to the depths of college football into one of its least likely winners.

The Owls are coming off a four-win season that still managed to get head coach Steve Addazio the Boston College coaching job. But fifteen starters return to a program reinvigorated by the return of Rhule, one of Golden’s most trusted lieutenants. And while Rhule has had to reinstall a pro-style offense and do his best to patch holes on one of college football’s youngest defenses, there’s hope that this season begins a step back in the direction that Golden had taken the program.

Joining us to get us up to speed on all things Temple is the Philadelphia Inquirer’s John Mitchell. Covering the Owls beat while also keeping the Inquirer’s Owls Inq blog up to date, John was nice enough to take some time out of his business schedule and get us prepared for what the Owls are bringing to South Bend.

I asked, he answered. We all learn.

1) New head coach Matt Rhule took over the Temple program from one-time Notre Dame assistant Steve Addazio, who jumped to take the Boston College job. Rhule was front and center for the program’s revival under Al Golden. What type of team did Rhule inherit?

The team that Rhule inherited finished 4-7 last season. They are in transition, forced to start a junior quarterback who has never taken a snap at the collegiate level. This despite having both players who played the position last season still on the roster. They are not very talented and were picked to finish 9th out of 10 teams in the AAC Conference. The secondary is a huge concern, with just one of the four positioned being manned by a returning player. Finishing at .500 would be a major surprise.

2) It feels like there is quite a bit of uncertainty at the quarterback position. Already challenged by a new offensive scheme, who will the Irish defense see under center and what do they have to worry about?

Connor Reilly is the starting quarterback. He has never taken a collegiate snap. He is a mystery to all, even those who cover the team.

3) The Temple defense went through some growing pains last year. But defensive coordinator Phil Snow built his reputation getting after the quarterback. What will Temple need to do to slow down the Notre Dame offense?

They need to play as stout as possible against the run, something that will be difficult as they have very little size up front. They will make a good effort to get to the quarterback on passing downs with quick but undersized defensive ends.

4) Las Vegas has this game looking fairly one-sided, with the Irish around a four touchdown favorite. With Notre Dame in the preseason top ten and Temple picked to finish near the bottom of the American, this has the ingredients to get ugly. Yet I can’t imagine a new head coach and his team plan to lay down during their season opener. What’s a good outcome for the Owls on Saturday?

A good outcome would be for the Owls to be within three touchdowns by the end of the game.

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You can catch more from John throughout the week at the Owl Inq blog as well as in the Inquirer’s sports page. You can follow him on twitter @jmitchinquirer.