No. 9 Irish coming to the Linc Saturday

The Owls will play their first ranked opponent of 2015 this weekend.

Temple fans celebrate the Owls’ 2015 season-opening, 27-10, victory against Penn State at Lincoln Financial Field. | JENNY KERRIGAN / FILE PHOTO

When Temple, the No. 21 in the AP Top 25 Poll, hosts No. 9 Notre Dame at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, it will be the second time since 1952 that two nationally-ranked college teams will match up in Philadelphia.

It will also be the first time the Fighting Irish play in Philadelphia since they defeated the Naval Academy 58-27 on Oct. 30, 1993.

“I’m excited for Philadelphia,” coach Matt Rhule said. “I’m excited for our fans. It should be a real great atmosphere this Saturday night at 8 o’clock.”

The game, which will be ESPN’s featured game of the week on ABC, is the team’s first contest against a ranked opponent since defeating East Carolina 20-10 at the Linc Nov. 1, 2014. Through seven games in 2015, Notre Dame is 6-1, with its lone loss coming Oct. 3 against No. 3 Clemson University, 24-22.

“It’s exciting for people in the area,” Rhule said. “It will be a great day.”

The Owls enter the game 7-0, the team’s best start in program history. Since last season, the Owls have won eight consecutive games.

“We are excited for Notre Dame to come to Philadelphia this weekend,” Rhule said. “It’s a great nonconference game to measure ourselves against one of the top teams in the country.”

The Owls last faced Notre Dame in 2013 during Rhule’s first year as coach.

At Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana, the Fighting Irish tallied 543 yards of total offense on their way to a 28-6 victory. Rhule and the Owls finished 2013 2-10 and 1-7 in American Athletic Conference play.

Junior running back Jahad Thomas and junior quarterback P.J. Walker did not play in the game two years ago.

Redshirt-senior wide receiver John Christopher and redshirt-junior wide receivers Samuel Benjamin and Romond Deloatch caught three, two and one pass, respectively, while eight current Owls’ recorded a tackle on defense.

“They are very similar,” Rhule said. “A lot of our kids played in that game, and we played some of their best players. Any time you face someone before, it helps you.”

Notre Dame junior linebacker Jaylon Smith, an Associated Press Second Team All-American in 2014, recorded one assist in the 2013 matchup. This season, Smith has 56 total tackles, including six tackles for loss.

“Jaylon Smith, we played against him as a freshman, and he’s probably one of the Top 10 players in the country,” Rhule said. “He’s a dynamic linebacker.”

The Fighting Irish’s senior defensive lineman Sheldon Day also played against the Owls in 2013, recording one total tackle.

“Sheldon Day, when we played them two years ago, I thought out of a heralded offensive line, he was the best player we faced,” Rhule said.

Saturday’s matchup at Lincoln Financial Field will be the third time since 2013 the Owls sold out the Linc, including the team’s 27-10 win against Penn State Oct. 5 and the fourth time since 2007.

“Football wise, it gives us a chance to show recruits all across the country what is exactly happening here,” Rhule said. “Obviously we want to play well, that will impact that even further. When they see the atmosphere, the crowd, the support we are getting, it really authenticates what we are trying to tell the recruits.”

Michael Guise can be reached at or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.

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