Welcome to the FOS Game Week Blitz for Penn State’s season opener against 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.
MH: Football season is upon us again and the 2015 edition opens up with a road home game for the Nittany Lions as they head to the eastern part of Lion Country to face the Temple Owls in Philadelphia.
ND: The Lions kick off the 2015 season against their longtime in-state rival, Temple. The Owls were able to squeak out a 6-6 record last year. but the team and the fan base are still stinging after not getting a bowl bid. Though the game is a home game for the Owls that is in formality only. Lincoln Financial Field will have a very Happy Valley feel to it.
Who: Penn State vs. Temple
When: Saturday, Sept.5 at 3:30 p.m. ET, 12:30 p.m. PT
Where: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia
Series: Penn State leads 39-3-1
Line: Penn State favored by 7 points
MH: Lets take a closer look at where the Nittany Lions stand heading into their road clash against Temple.
TARGET RICH: Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg has a strong contingent of wide receivers to deliver the ball to. Led by DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis, the unit also has Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall who can get into open space and make plays. Keep an eye on youngsters DeAndre Thompkins and Brandon Polk, as well.
LINE UP: The Lions’ offensive line is maintaining the same starting five we saw in the spring, with Andrew Nelson (RT), Brian Gaia (RG), Angelo Mangiro (C) and Brendan Mahon (LG). The only new addition to the lineup is JUCO transfer Paris Palmer. The 6-foot-7, 302-pound Palmer got the nod to man Hackenberg’s blindside at left tackle. He’s got the size; the question is how he transitions into the role. Maintaining the bulk of the lineup is a significant key for PSU in order for the unit to get into sync early.
INSIDE JOB: Penn State features some veteran power upfront on defense led by 6-4, 284-pound DT Anthony Zettel and 6-4, 323-pound Austin Johnson. This is a major weapon for the Lions to get a surge up front to disrupt the pocket and force some opposing decisions from Temple QB P.J. Walker. The duo also attract a lot of attention to open up opportunities for defensive ends Carl Nassib and Garrett Sickels on the outside. Sean Spencer will get in some rotation with the depth from Curtis Cothran and Evan Schwan at end and Tarow Barney and Parker Cothren at tackle.
SECONDARY THOUGHTS: The defensive backfield is anchored by seniors Jordan Lucas at strong safety and Trevor Williams at corner. Grant Haley (corner) and Marcus Allen (safety), who was a Big Ten All-Freshman selection, round out the starters. This unit should be fun to watch with the speed and talent it has. The question is how they settle in early on in the season.
GET A KICK: Field goals are a bit of a question mark at this stage with redshirt freshman Joey Julius looking to split the uprights. With PSU hero Sam Ficken having graduated, the Lions are in search of some reliability with the position. James Franklin says Julius holds the statistical edge over Tyler Davis going into the season. Well see how that translates with some game pressure.
RUNNING WILD: Penn State’s backfield is led by veteran Akeel Lynch, who, after splitting duties for the past few seasons, is the lead man for the unit. He’s got a young pack behind him in redshirt sophomores Mark Allen and Nick Scott, and freshman Saquon Barkley. Keep an eye on how the offensive line manages to open up holes against the Owls. It should be a good early indicator of much the staff can rely on the rush attack.
ND: In this section, we will review Temple.
SENIOR CITIZENS: The Owls return 47 letter-winners, including seven starters on offense and 10 starters on defense. This is an experienced crew that was able to claw back to avoid a losing season last year. Additionally, they have a considerable amount of experience playing against Penn State, so don’t expect any wide eyes from this crew.
WALK IN THE PARK: Walker returns as the QB for the Owls. It’s always good to get an experienced QB back, but Walker did not have a great year last year. He struggled with consistency and with accuracy. He is able to run but he’s not exactly a true running threat. The Lions will hope that pressure will yield some easy turnovers, as it did last year.
ALL CAUGHT UP: Jalen Fitzpatrick was a critical receiver for the Owls last year and even torched the Lions on a long pass play. But he graduated. The Owls are now trying to figure out who their go-to receiver will be. It will come down to either Romond Deloatch or Branden Shippen. Both guys saw action last year but neither was remarkable. Look for the Owls to run the ball often until they sort out their receiving corp.
YOUNG IS OLD: Tavon Young is an excellent DB who has some ball-hawking skills. He is now a senior and had four INTs last year and returned one of them for a TD. The matchup between him and the Lion receivers will be a good indication if the Lions will be able to get some separation this year.
SCREAMING FOR PRAISE: Defensive End Praise Martin-Oguike was an All-AAC performer last year with his 7.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, two blocked FGs and nine TFLs. This kid is not a tall defensive end who he is very athletic. He is, however, questionable for this game due to injury.
KEYS TO THE GAME
MH: I see the offensive line being key in this one in terms of the offensive attack we see from the Nittany Lions. If they can open up some marginal lanes and allow Hackenberg to spread the ball around, the Lions should be able to mount some early success in this one. I expect to see some early hiccups from the Blue and White, though.
ND: Last year, the Lions really took advantage of the windfall of turnovers. Prior to that, the Lions struggled to move the ball in any consistent fashion. The key to this game is going to be getting some points earlier to help the confidence of this offensive line and for Christian Hackenberg. Otherwise, it will take another turnover jackpot to pull this one out.
MH: This is like an early preseason classic game for the Owls as they look to get that elusive victory over PSU, the first since World War II. Penn State will have some stalled drives, but I expect the Blue and White defense to handle the Owl offensive attack
Penn State 27, Temple 12
ND: Though this is an away game, Happy Valley East will be in full effect at the Linc. The offensive line will struggle with this first battle against a quality defense. But the Lions will make just enough plays to get some points on the board and the defense will be in mid-season form by shutting down the Owls’ offense.
Penn State 20, Temple 6
Until next time,
Fight On State!