Download the full FOS Blitz gameday guide at the link below, or simply read Nirav and Mark's game preview below.
ND: Well, Penn State managed to get to 2-1 on the year and now Joe Paterno faces one of his protégés in Al Golden, the head coach of the Temple Owls. Temple hasn't beaten Penn State since 1941 and Paterno is 25-0 against the Owls, but this is a team on the rise. I expect them to come in fired up with Golden preaching that this will be like a bowl game for them with a chance to break into the Top 25.
MH: Over the past four meetings for every yard rushed by Temple, PSU has had 11 yards on the ground, but this is not your father's Temple team, they have become a force in the MAC in recent years and beat UConn, albeit an average Husky team. I expect Temple to come out swinging. I think the fact that the Big Ten Network execs moved this game to 3:30 pm for a ratings boost helps Penn State, but I am not sold that Temple is the force many are making them out to be.
Who: Temple at No. 20 Penn State
When: September 25th at 3:30pm ET and 12:30am PT
Where: Beaver Stadium at University Park, PA
Series: Penn State leads 35-3-1
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Penn State by 15
Other Big Games This Weekend:
ND: The SEC has an interesting top-10 matchup as No. 1 Alabama and Ingram heads to face Ryan Mallet. Arkansas is coming off a nail-biter against Georgia while Alabama destroyed Duke rolling 300 yards on them in the first quarter. This one should be interesting. Also, keep an eye out west as No. 24 Oregon State heads to No. 3 Boise State. Boise has been taking some lumps since Virginia Tech went into their tailspin, but beating up on the Beavers will allow them to make a statement to some of the talking heads.
MH: Nirav, I am actually interested in No. 22 West Virginia as they head down to No. 15 LSU. These are two of the wildest fanbases in the nation, so it should be a good time. Both teams are looking to make runs at their conferences and this would be a nice feather in their caps. Also, I find UNC at Rutgers intriguing. Both teams have had high expectations on them in recent years, so this will be an interesting matchup. We'll see if Rutgers can get their bottom-of-the-barrel passing game going against the Heels who are coming off a heart-breaker to Georgia Tech.
ND: I still maintain the SEC is a mess. Watch for West Virginia to give LSU a game. They have looked toothless with a passing attack that is ranked 115th in the country. West Virginia has their own issues, but I think this is a unique opportunity for them to make a statement.
MH: I was oh, so close on my Air Force over Oklahoma pick last week, missing by a mere field goal. This week I think No. 17 Auburn could bring South Carolina back down to Earth. Granted Auburn had a handful with Clemson, but I generally liked what they did in the game. This will be a tall order to stop Marcus Lattimore, but if they can slow him down and put the game on Garcia's arm it should give them a shot.
ND: The Penn State offensive staff has me scratching my head. Against Kent State, the Nittany Lions all but avoided the running game early on. In the second quarter they ran only two times. I am not in the camp yet that Evan Royster can't get it done. I think where the offensive line has done an impressive job in pass protection, giving up no sacks through three games; they have done a poor job run blocking.
I really liked what Stephfon Green showed on Saturday though. He fought, broke tackles and pounded for extra yards. I like the development he has shown over the years moving from finesse to physical back. I would like to see more of Curtis Dukes and Silas Redd. I know Redd has been up and down, but he has the ability to break open some plays in open space. Dukes' size and strength are intriguing in terms of giving PSU a different, road-grading look on the ground.
I expect Temple to come in and stuff the box to put the pressure on Rob Bolden. The good news is Bolden is showing improvement. Granted, he still makes freshman mistakes, but he threw some great looking balls against the Golden Flashes. He has a quick release, velocity and touch. I know it didn't count, but his touchdown pass to Justin Brown was a thing of beauty. The line is doing a good job of protecting him. What I really liked was the flashes of mobility the QB showed. I am not expecting the coaches to overuse this, as to not risk injury, but having him run even one to two times per game on a bootleg or rollout could really keep the defense guessing.
I also liked that Bolden spread the ball around to nine different receivers. I would like to see more receptions from the tight ends, but I can understand that they are being kept back to max-protect Bolden. Temple's defense with try to blitz and pressure Bolden, so check-downs and intermediate, high-percentage opportunities will be key to pull them back.
MH: Nirav, I know you talked about Bolden, but the guy who really impressed me against Kent State is Derek Moye. This guy is deceptively fast, big and has dependable hands. His 55-yard touchdown pass was fantastic, but his two-toed sideline grab was amazing because of the body control and awareness it displayed. I love the connection that is developing between Bolden and Moye and it's awesome to think they have next year together too.
I am also concerned with the running game. Granted Bolden has a lot of targets to move the ball around to and you made a great point on leveraging his mobility, Nirav. I don't think a lot of teams are expecting that. However, the run game has to start pulling its weight. Green was impressive, but I do not see this staff moving away from Royster, nor should they at this stage, although I am concerned his head is not where it needs to be. I don't think Royster played as bad as some of the assessments out there, I'd argue they did not give the run game enough opportunity early on.
Green gives the offense a nice multi-dimensional back that will battle in traffic, but also can turn on the jets and break a 20-yarder. I am with you that I would like to see more from the offensive line, although I think they are playing better than most expected overall. Against Temple I suspect PSU will try to spark the running game against a run defense that is ranked No. 56 giving up 422 yards, 3 touchdowns in three games.
One side note is that I think Newsome brings in another situational dimension that the staff could use. I would like to see him in a bit of Wildcat in selective spots. They likely won't do it, but I think it would serve as a nice change of pace for the offense and keep the defense alert.
ND: I know there is a lot general unhappiness with the defense, but a shutout is a shutout. I think it shows the defense kept at it all game. In fact the Golden Flashes never even crossed the PSU 30-yard line. Granted there not playing to the level PSU fans have been used to in recent years, but I think we've all been spoiled. I will tell you Pete Massaro impresses me. He's got a fire and determination and showed impressive block shedding for a young player. I doubt that Larry Johnson bails on Jack Crawford, but Eric Latimore should be looking over his shoulder at Massaro. Latimore and Crawford didn't start since they were "a bit banged up," but Sean Stanley and Massaro brought some nice pressure off the corners.
Temple has a solid running back in Bernard Pierce who has 301 yards on 56 carries (5.4 YPC) and three TDs in three games. The 2009 MAC Freshman of the Year quick off the snap and shifty and creates opportunities in tight spaces. Penn State's linebackers have not been up-to-snuff thus far. Colasanti has to get a faster first step off the snap. The PSU coaches have to get speed on the wings as Piece can and will make the corner. They key here is containing him. He will find cracks, but his output has to be contained. The linebackers will have to be alert for Golden to send a tight end down a seam or on a slant also.
Mark, the corners (Stephon Morris, D'Anton Lynn and Derrick Thomas) have been very impressive, which is a big plus to challenge the immediate spark a big play will give to Temple. Chester Stewart is big 6-foot-3, 214 pound quarterback. He's boasted some solid completion percentages, including 72 percent against Central Michigan, but in his last two games he's only put up 151 and 159 yards respectively, so Al Golden is looking at him more as a supplement to Piece and the ground game.
MH: Watch for Golden to come out swinging in this one. I think he's going to take risks, particularly on offense, some fourth down attempts, maybe a fake. He's got nothing to lose and a lot to gain, particularly in front of this audience. As you covered Nirav, Pierce is a real weapon for the Owl offense. Bradley has been focusing on tackling and explosiveness with his players. They have been lackluster with the basics, but I think they will punish Pierce; and he can't go it alone.
Michael Campbell is their lead receiver and has pulled in 10 receptions for 142 yards. However, 80 percent of his production came in the first game of the season against Villanova. Since then he's only had one grab in each of the last two games for a total of 15 yards. "Hot" Rod Streater (great name) has seven grabs for 123 yards, however he had only one catch for 13 yards.
Devon Still and Ollie Ogbu will have to disrupt the interior of the line to put Stewart off-balance and force Pierce to make immediate adjustments on his runs. All in all, Temple only has nine more total rushing yards than Penn State, however Pierce has nearly three times the Royster and Green individually.
ND: Special teams have made a 180 turn for me. Fera is getting stronger and more consistent on punts and his kickoffs look great. The return game is impressive and Collin Wagner has been money. We should all find out who proposed to eliminate the wedge from the rulebook and send him a fruit basket this year. It's forced PSU to change their blocking scheme up and has allowed the return-men to use their skills.
MH: I agree; special teams is actually an asset to PSU right now. I also tip my hat to the kick coverage teams. They have shown great speed and containment and have plugged up most returns this season.
Matchup to Kick Back and Enjoy:
ND: I think the Lions are going to be tested by Pierce and his running style. The Penn State front seven have to communicate and work in concert to contain Pierce. As you said Mark, he can't do it all alone. This is a big matchup that the line has to get the edge on.
MH: I am going with the battle between Rob Bolden and Temple's front pressure. I expect that the Owls are going to throw the kitchen sink at PSU's run game and if the staff takes the path they did against KSU, it will take Bolden's arm and head to find some early success to push back the pressure.
Keys to the Game:
ND: Turnovers. I went with this last week and will stick with it here. Penn State is still last in the Big Ten on turnovers. They have to protect the ball. Temple will take advantage of every opportunity that PSU gives them and if the Lions allow the Owls to hang around by gift wrapping opportunities for them it will be a long day.
MH: Attitude. Coincidentally I also went with this last week. Penn State's squad cannot overlook Temple. This team is talented and hungry. If they are looking past them or thinking it's a typical Temple squad it will be a big mistake.
ND: Mark, this is a good test for Penn State heading into Big Ten play. I think Temple comes out fast and puts some points up early, but in the end Penn State is just too much at home.
Penn State 27, Temple 14
MH: Al Golden continues to get the Owls soaring in the right direct, but the talent gap is too much. Couple this with the home Beaver Stadium crown and Penn State should have a solid outing.
Penn State 30, Temple 10
Until next time,
Fight On State!