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Notre Dame

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Temple at Notre Dame

2012 records: No. 14 Irish (12-1); Owls (4-7)

When: 3:30 p.m. today

Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend

TV: NBC

Radio: 1190 AM, 107.3 FM

3 matchups to watch

Notre Dame’s running game vs. Temple’s run defense: The Irish are ready to unleash a group of backs that coach Brian Kelly says is the most talented he has had in his coaching career. But junior George Atkinson III is Notre Dame’s only running back with significant experience. Atkinson ran for 361 yards with five touchdowns last season. Behind him, the Irish will look for production from junior Amir Carlisle, who missed last season because of an injury, and junior Cam McDaniel, who ran for 125 yards and a score last season. The Irish will be without sophomore Will Mahone, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in fall camp, and they could also use freshmen Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. The Owls will have to shore up a run defense that gave up 199.8 yards per game last season. Temple returns its top two tacklers from last season in sophomore linebackers Tyler Matakevich, who had 101, and Nate D. Smith, who had 75 but will be sharing time with freshman Jarred Alwan.

Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III vs. Temple’s offensive line: Tuitt, a 6-6, 322-pound junior defensive end, and Nix, a 6-2, 357-pound senior nose guard, are the focal points of the Irish’s defense. Tuitt led the team with 13 tackles for loss and 12 sacks last season, and he has recovered from a sports hernia that slowed his production in the final half of last season. Nix had 50 tackles and 7 1/2 tackles for loss. Temple has experience on the interior of its line with 6-2, 305-pound sophomore center Kyle Friend, who played in 11 games and started nine last season, as well as 6-2, 302-pound senior left guard Jeff Whittingham and 6-4, 330-pound senior right guard Pete White. But the Owls are using converted tight end Cody Booth, a 6-5, 285-pound, at left tackle. Zach Hooks, a 6-6, 300-pound senior, is at right tackle. Hook started all 11 games last season.

Notre Dame’s secondary vs. Temple’s passing game: The Irish are not scrambling to find defensive backs like they did last year. Starting cornerbacks Bennett Jackson, a 6-foot, 195-pound senior, and KeiVarae Russell, a 5-11, 190-pound sophomore, return with their combined six interceptions and six breakups. They are joined by 5-10, 194-pound senior Lo Wood, who missed last season with an Achilles injury, in the rotation. Mathias Farley, a 5-10, 204-pound junior, returns at safety after having 49 tackles and an interception. He is joined by 6-foot, 205-pound senior Austin Collinsworth, who missed last season with injuries, and 6-foot, 213-pound sophomore Elijah Shumate, who has impressed with his hard-hitting style in fall camp. Temple’s offense is a mystery as the Owls move from the run-heavy system of former coach Steve Addazio to new coach Matt Rhule’s pro-style offense. Quarterback Connor Reilly, a 6-3, 215-pound junior, has never taken a hike in college, and his top returning target is Jalen Fitzpatrick, a 5-11, 180-pound junior, had 30 catches for 363 yards last season and is moving from slot to outside.

Prediction: Notre Dame 42, Temple 6

tkrausz@jg.net

– Tony Krausz, The Journal Gazette

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