It’s not like it used to be, but to some the name still sends shivers up and down their spine: Notre Dame.
Rockne and the Gipper… The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse… The Golden Dome…
Now add to that Temple.
Yes, for the second time in the last five seasons the Owls will open the season in South Bend, IN against the Fighting Irish. Not only that, but on both occasions it marked the debut of their new coach.
Geoff Collins, who’ll try to fill the shoes left by his longtime friend Matt Rhule says he wouldn’t want to be anyplace else.
“It’s exciting to go start the season with such a program like this in an environment considered one of most storied in college football,” said Collins, who takes over the remnants of a 10-4 team hit hard by graduation. “I’ve been waiting a long time for an opportunity like this to be a head coach. I told the guys the thing I’m most excited about is walking out of the tunnel with them. It’s gonna be awesome to be in Notre Dame Stadium because I’m gonna be with my guys. Back when I took over in December there wasn’t that bond. But after eight months there’s not another group I would want to come out of the tunnel with for my first game as head coach.”
As for the team he’ll bring with him the biggest question mark remains at the most important position. Between Logan Marchi, Frank Nutile, Todd Centaio and Anthony Russo none of them has stepped forward enough to claim departed Philip Walker’s quarterback job.
The plan then is to rotate at least two of them — likely Marchi and Nutile — and see if anyone moves to the head of the class.
“Whoever gives us the best chance to win,” said Collins simply. “We just want to complement whoever’s under center.”
Winning in South Bend, though has never been easy for any team. The 2013 Owls fell 28-6, setting the tone for a 2-10 season. Two years later Notre Dame came to the Linc in prime time to take on a 7-0 Temple team that had made it into the national rankings. Just as the Owls seemed on the verge of going to 8-0 the No. 9 ranked Irish rallied in the final minutes to escape with a 24-20 decision.
Now returning to the scene of his first college game doesn’t seem quite so daunting for redshirt-senior defensive lineman Sharif Finch.
“This year is a lot different because there’s a lot of guys that come from a winning background,” said Finch, who recently was upgraded from No. 56 to No. 6 as one of Temple’s single digit standouts. “We won a championship last year and we’ve still got the same process, the same culture.”
They even have better insight what to expect from Brian Kelly’s team.
“I know what it feels like to play Notre Dame,” said senior safety, Sean Chandler, a four-year starter. “I can tell the younger guys when I recognize things that they’re running. Tell the corners ‘Watch out for this.’ Or ‘watch out for that.’ That should be a big help for my team.”
It’s a Temple team not only adjusting to a new coach and new quarterback but to other new faces along both the offensive and defensive lines. Yet the reigning American Athletic Conference champion Owls, picked for third in the East, aren’t conceding a thing.
“We have to create our own legacy,” said junior cornerback Delvon Randall. “We have to be better than last year. We’re not necessarily just defending the title.”
It starts Saturday at one of college football’s most hallowed shrines, where no one not wearing cherry and white thinks the Owls have a chance. Of course they’re used to that by now.
But coming off back-to-back 10 win seasons, the Fighting Irish — and everyone else — could be making a serious mistake taking Temple for granted.