TEMPLE: Blitz the Owls

Mark Harrington and Nirav Dalal provide the ultimate preview for the Nittany Lions' showdown with Temple (and the rest of the college football weekend). Get the lowdown on the keys to the game and much more right here.

Welcome to the FOS Game Week Blitz for Penn State's showdown with Temple.

The Blitz was one of the most popular features at the old PSU Playbook, the grass-roots site which was a big part of the entities that united to create FightOnState.com back in 2004. Though the name of the site changed, we kept right on blitzing.

The idea behind The Blitz? Former Playbook scribes (and current FOS staffers) Mark Harrington and Nirav Dalal provide a fans' eye breakdown of the upcoming game. They discuss and debate pertinent issues, matchups and injuries, and — of course — provide their predictions. They also take an overview of the entire weekend in college football.

Like a pair of (undersized and very slow) outside linebackers, they pin back their ears and get after it. Sometimes they come through with big hits, other times they miss. But they always enjoy themselves.

As an aside, in keeping up with the times, we are converting The Blitz from a pdf format to an online story.


KICKING OFF

ND: The Lions got a much-needed win against Navy last week where most aspects of the team were clicking. The kicking game continues to be an enigma and the running game has yet to find its groove. But, fans have to love what Matt McGloin has done this season. Temple had a week off to regroup and focus on Penn State. The Owls have kept the game very competitive against the Lions over the last two years and I think we can expect the same this year.

MH: A much-needed win is right, and despite a few bumps, the offense and defense both had all-around solid outings. Aside from kicking, the defense has to nail down its third- and fourth-down coverage. Now PSU faces a rested and ready Temple squad that is hungry to make a statement in Happy Valley, where the Owls have never won a football game.


DIRTY DETAILS

Who: Temple at Penn State

When: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, 3:30 p.m. ET, 12:30 p.m. PT

Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.

Series: Penn State leads 30-3-1 (with 7 wins vacated)

TV: ABC/ESPN2

Line: Penn State favored by 7.5


OTHER BIG GAMES

ND: After playing a bunch of cupcake opponents, No. 3 Oregon finally faces a foe with a pulse when Rich Rodriguez's No. 22 Arizona travels to Eugene. Oregon has been very efficient, but one has to look beyond the scores to realize that the Ducks are not quite as strong as the scoreboard might indicate. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have been putting up big points themselves, including a 59-38 win over Oklahoma State two weeks ago. I think Oregon will win this game since it is at home, but I anticipate this to be a shootout with a relatively close score at the end. Oregon does have a solid defense and I think it will make a play or two down the stretch to help the Ducks win.

MH: There are a couple other big games. First, No. 18 Michigan heads to No. 11 Notre Dame to vindicate the state of Michigan (and the Big Ten) after the Irish smacked MSU in East Lansing last week. Also, No. 10 Clemson heads to No. 4 Florida State for a game that should be a huge factor in the ACC title race. Finally, No. 15 Kansas State heads to No. 6 Oklahoma. The Wildcats have put up some major points and are looking to make a big statement against the Sooners.


UPSET SPECIAL

ND: Mark, a legendary coach once said that you are never as good as you when you win and you are never as bad as you think when you lose. I think that will be proven true this weekend. Notre Dame had a huge defensive game against the Spartans last week and easily beat Michigan State. Meanwhile, Michigan was drubbed by Alabama in Week 1. However, one has to look at Michigan's issues on offense as a major contributor to that beat-down and Alabama is clearly the cream of the crop after they it Arkansas to the wood shed. I like Denard Robinson and the Wolverines to beat Notre Dame this weekend in South Bend. I think this is going to be an excellent game but the Wolverines are starting to hit their stride and I think will win this one.

MH: I am not going to count out Oregon State against No. 19 UCLA. Sure, the Bruins are 3-0, but OSU showed some impressive streaks of play when it beat Wisconsin. Granted, Wisconsin has a slew of its own issues, but I am not quite sold on UCLA's dominance yet.


PSU'S PLAYBOOK

ND: I expect to see very similar things to what we saw last week. A solid balance of run and pass and continued reliance on the TE position. Matt McGloin has been accurate and has not taken any big risks with the football. However, the offensive line clearly needs to improve its communication so that McGloin can stay in the pocket. He is a much better passer when he is able to scan the field and step into his throws. WR Allen Robinson has clearly become a favorite target. Robinson leads the Big Ten in yards and receptions. When was the last time that could be said about any Penn State receiver? The running game continues to lack any burst or any real effectiveness. RB Michael Zordich adds a physical element but he's not going to outrun any LBs, let alone safeties. Bill O'Brien is stating that both Bill Belton and Derek Day. Belton did not practice Wednesday Day did. I would like to see the coaches turn more to Curtis Dukes.

Defensively, the Lions played great against a difficult Navy offense last week. This week, they will have to play disciplined, assignment football again. Temple runs a spread option attack, which will put increased pressure on the defensive line to get a surge in order to dictate QB Chris Coyer's decisions. The run defense has been lights out and we'll see how the pass defense has improved this week. Pressure on the QB will again be key, but the ability to close holes in the secondary is paramount.

MH: I suspect the Owls will try to key on Robinson who, as you said, leads the Big Ten in receiving and was named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List this week. That should allow other targets like Kyle Carter, Alex Kenney and company to open up a bit. I was particularly impressed with McGloin last week. He had shown previously he could spread the ball around, but he has been efficient with his passes and much more protective of the ball of late. That's thanks to some better judgment and fewer forced passes. The offensive line has to continue to improve, particularly on its run blocking, but the linemen have been showing strong signs with the pass protection.

On the other side of the ball I suspect we'll se increased pressure on the pocket as Coyer has struggled with the rush, hitting only 41 percent of his passes this season. Ted Roof has to be smarter with the pressure, though, and actually bring it up more on those pesky third (and fourth downs) – even the longer situations. He's got to trust his linebackers and put his personnel in smarter positions to cut down lanes and take away the gimme passes.


SCOUTING THE OTHER SIDE

ND: The Owls came back hard against Maryland behind Coyer's arm and legs. Coyer reminds me a bit of a taller Zack Mills. He's not going to be confusing like Denard Robinson, but he's got a little wiggle and elusiveness that makes him a solid runner. He is tall and has a strong arm when delivering the football. Matt Brown is a very fun RB to watch. He is very short (5-foot-5), is explosive and has quite a bit of juke. I'm somewhat surprised that they have not relied on him more this season and taken pressure off of Coyer, but that might be exactly what the Owls do this week.

Owlaniyi Adewole has been having a really good year at his LB spot. He plays more like a safety but he leads the team in TFLs and is tied for the lead in sacks. Nate Smith has been a pleasant surprise for the Owls at the Mike LB spot. He is leading the team in tackles in his first year of playing for the Owls. Against Maryland, the defense was plagued with an offense that surrendered the ball three times. The Owls played far better in the second half. They aren't particularly vulnerable in any area but they have a strong set of LBs and they drive the performance of the team.

MH: As you said Nirav, where Coyer has struggled with his arm, he's made up for with his feet. But the Penn State secondary cannot fall asleep and assume this guy cannot pass. If he's given a lane to his target he'll deliver the ball with a punch. Brown's size is concerning if for nothing more than defenders have a tough time finding him since he's so small and quick. The linebackers will have to work to play containment on him and flush him out to the flat.

The Owls don't have any huge threats at receiver, but Jalen Fitzpatrick has shown he can make plays when the ball comes his way. Defensively, I suspect the Owls will take some risks on the rush and try to get pressure on McGloin to rush some decisions. The linebackers in particular have shown they can step into lanes and help collapse the pocket, so the offensive line for PSU will have to stay awake in this one.


MATCHUP TO KICK BACK AND ENJOY

ND: This game is going to come down to how well the Lions are able to stop the Temple passing attack. The Lions' secondary scheme has been far from impressive and the Owls have some playmakers on the outside. If the Lions can get pressure on Coyer and cover the middle of the field, they could blow this game open. But, if they allow Coyer to pick them apart, it's going to be a long afternoon.

MH: I think a lot of this comes down to how McGloin handles the defensive pressure the Owl front throws at him. If he plays smart and collected, the Lions should be able to string some drives together. If he starts forcing things like the MM of old, a mistake here and there will add up to Temple opportunities.


KEYS TO THE GAME

ND: The Lions have to convert turnovers into points. They have been able to force turnovers exceptionally well this season but that has not resulted in points. The Owls got into a ditch against Maryland because they turned the ball over and there just wasn't enough time for Temple to dig back out. If the Lions can get their usual share of turnovers and put points on the board -- even FGs -- that will help them in this game.

MH: Penn State has to play focused on both sides of the ball. That means protecting the ball and capitalizing on mistakes. The Lions have done an impressive job avoiding interceptions and fumbles. If they can do that again it should be a big factor in a victory.


PREDICTIONS

ND: Coyer is one slippery QB, and I think he'll make a couple of plays running and passing to keep this game close. The Penn State running attack will continue to struggle but McGloin under center will allow the Lions to get by.

Penn State 24, Temple 17

MH: Temple will come out swinging, but in the end I suspect Penn State has too much size and talent. Toss in an impressive passing performance for PSU and the Lions should get back to .500.

Penn State 27, Temple 14


Until next time,

Fight On State!


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