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Temple Readies for Biggest Game in Program History

Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

It would not be hyperbolic to suggest that Saturday’s showdown with Notre Dame could be the biggest game in the history of Temple football.

A program that just over a decade ago was expelled from the Big East due to its lack of competitiveness and poor attendance has risen from the ashes of perpetual mediocrity and is off to the first 7-0 start in school history. The Owls find themselves ranked in the national polls for the first time since 1979, but their real test comes this Saturday against the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish.

Temple boasts a defense that is arguably the best unit in the Group of Five conferences. The Owl defense was superb in 2014 and returned nearly everyone this year, so expectations were quite high heading into 2015. They’ve managed to somehow exceed them anyway.

But, despite the fact that Temple is off to such a stellar start—which included its first win over Penn State since 1941 earlier in the season—the strength of its schedule has led many to be skeptical of its chances of upsetting Notre Dame this Saturday.

Such skepticism is quite understandable given the fact that the Owls’ two best wins this year came against Penn State and Cincinnati. Those are two solid teams, but neither is close to the caliber of Brian Kelly’s Irish. That being said, it would be rather unwise to completely write off Temple in this Saturday’s game. As Ole Miss learned the hard way against Memphis earlier in the season, AAC teams can be quite a formidable foe.

The atmosphere this weekend will be electric in Philadelphia. College Gameday is coming to town and the primetime clash at Lincoln Financial Field is sold out. It’s amazing to think that this program, which was banished from the Big East in part for its lackluster attendance, could feature as raucous of crowd as the one that will be on hand Saturday night. Such is life in the wild world of college football in 2015.

Just getting to this point is an incredible accomplishment for Matt Rhule and his staff, but it’s hard to overstate just how significant a victory over Notre Dame would be for the Owls.

They’re already sitting in good shape in the AAC, but a win against the Irish would make them a legitimate player on the national stage. A spot in the College Football Playoff is still a huge long shot even with a win, but a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game is absolutely in play for Temple. At this point, it looks like the Group of Five’s spot in a New Year’s Day bowl game will come from the AAC, and the Owls can obviously give their résumé a major boost by defeating Notre Dame.

There are legitimate reason to be skeptical of Temple’s chances of upsetting the Irish Saturday night, but don’t underestimate these Owls. They’ve defied the odds to get the program to where it is at this point, and a triumph over Notre Dame would turn this storybook season into a full-blown fairy tale.

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