Temple Owls at Penn State Nittany Lions (-8)
For a long time, Pennsylvania was the only similarity between Temple Owls (1-1, 0-0 Away) football and Penn State Nittany Lions (1-1, 1-0 Home) football. But after the Owls snapped a 39-game losing streak to the Lions last year, they’ll head into the intra-state rivalry with newfound confidence when they visit Beaver Stadium this Saturday (12:00 PM Eastern).
Before last year’s team knocked off Penn State 27-10 at home, it had been 79 long years between Temple victories over the Nittany Lions. Last season also marked just the second time since 1980 that the Owls finished with more wins in a season than Penn State.
But this year’s team doesn’t look to be as strong as the bunch that went 10-4 and reached the program’s first bowl game since 2011. Gone are some of the key defensive pieces that helped the Owls rank 16th in points allowed: DT Matt Ioannidis, DE Nate D. Smith, LB Tyler Matakevich and FS Alex Wells. Last year’s defense stifled Penn State’s run game and sacked Christian Hackenberg ten times! In Week 1 of this season, Army steamrolled the Owls for 329 yards on the ground.
The Owls’ offense returns centerpieces like QB Phillip Walker, WR Ventrell Bryant, and RB Jahad Thomas (who missed their first two games with a hand injury), but they’ll need to bring their “A” game to keep up with the Nittany Lion offense.
Under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead, Penn State has been moving the ball well in their first two games, led by sophomore running back Saquon Barkley’s 252 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns. If not for an ill-timed interception from quarterback Trace McSorley late against Pitt, the Nittany Lions might be returning home 2-0. Instead, they dropped a 42-39 game, and will have to take out their frustration on another rival.
Penn State was weak against the run in the Pitt game, getting demolished for 341 yards on the ground. But with Temple’s Thomas questionable to play, the Nittany Lions must feel even better about facing the nation’s 96th-best running team.
As much as it looks like Temple won’t be starting a winning streak over Penn State this weekend, remember that they’ve managed to cover in four of their last six games versus the Nittany Lions. They’re also 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games as a road ‘dog.
The Owls defense is still talented enough to keep this one close, especially if Penn State has problems protecting the ball again (they had four turnovers versus Pitt). Take Temple to keep the spark going in this “rivalry.”
Pick: Temple (+8).
Photo Credit: Dincher [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.