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ND: Time for the Lions to face another familiar foe this week. Penn State has faced 38 previous times. Last year, the Lions won 45-3. This year, many questions face the Lions' ability to run the ability, which is sort of like questioning the state of Florida's ability to produce oranges. But, the questions remain. We'll see if the Lions have it figured out or if they have to adapt the offense to throw more. This will be an interesting game from that perspective.
MH: There has been a lot of concern this week with PSU's ground game, but with a reloaded offensive line and opponents stacking the box I am not overly concerned at this stage. Teams are starting to realize that if you're going to force PSU to pass they have the ability to pick you apart. Daryll Clark has nearly 600 yards passing in the first two games this season. So, it'll be interesting to see what the Owls toss out at PSU. If they opt to actually defend the pass I expect Royster to break open some runs.
Who: Temple at No. 5 Penn State
When: September 19th at 12pm ET and 9am PT
Where: Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA
Series: Penn State leads 34-3-1.
TV: Big Ten Network
Line: Penn State favored by 29.5pts
Other Big Games This Weekend:
ND: Mark, I'm really interested to see what happens in that Arizona/Iowa game. The Hawkeyes went from almost losing to FCS Northern Iowa, but then turned around and crushed Iowa State last week. I'm curious to see how they do this week against Arizona. I like Iowa in this game but it could be close if they play sloppy.
MH: I am interested in No. 14 Georgia Tech at No. 20 Miami. The ACC seems like it's wide open for a team to race Virginia Tech for the title. Georgia Tech has an impressive defense, but they almost blew it against Clemson. Miami is sky-high after eeking out a Florida State win, but they have Virginia Tech and a wounded Oklahoma on the horizon. They'll need this win if they want to keep pace in the ACC race.
ND: Mark, I'm completely baffled by Oregon State being favored over #17 Cincinnati. The Beavs beat an FCS opponent and almost got beat by UNLV. Meanwhile, Cincy has scored 117 points in their matchup against Rutgers and an FCS opponent. Coach Riley is notorious for being lousy in out of conference games, which was clear when the Beavs came to Happy Valley. This is also the highest ranking out of conference opponent to come to Corvallis in years. I like the Bearcats in this one. I like the Bearcats BIG. I'll be surprised if they don't hang 40 on Oregon State.
MH: I am bummed that my UConn pick over UNC didn't work out – the Huskies blew that one and could have taken down the Tarheels. This week, I am with you Nirav, Cincy is destroying opponents but it will interesting to see how they handle the road pressure. I am going with two matchups this week as potential knockoffs. First, Texas Tech is not as high-powered as last season without Crabtree, but I think they could give No. 2 Texas a scare as Wyoming did before they woke up in the second half last week. I am also going to say Toledo will give No. 11 Ohio State a game with that Gattling-gun offense they have put on display.
ND: The Lions continued to show sharpness in the passing attack. Clark has been accurate and has been distributing the ball well. The long pass play hasn't quite clicked but it will really soon once Clark realizes that he won't overthrow this crop of speedy receivers. I also am expecting to see the Lions use more 3-step drops and flanker screen passes this week. As the running game continues to struggle, the offense is going to have to rely on very high percentage passing plays that are good for 4- and 5-yard pickups. This is where Devon Smith and Chaz Powell can really make an impact. We'll see if Galen Hall and Jay Paterno find more ways to get the ball in their hands. Clark will need to get rid of the football quickly and decisively because the Owls can rush the passer. They tallied 5 sacks against Villanova. There are two defensive ends that are real burners. Keep an eye on Robinson and Blueford, who are 248 and 252 pounds respectively. They are fast off the edge and try to disrupt the timing of the passer. We'll see how Landolt and Pannell perform against this type of pass rush.
The running game is a mystery to the fans and to the coaches. Dick Anderson threw in Barham and Troutman in against the Orange and the line performed better, in my opinion. Sources tell FightonState.com that the coaches have been using several variations in practice to see which one yields the best results. Whatever the result is, I think we'll see Troutman in there. He really seemed to sustain his blocks and do a nice job in pass blocking. I am also looking for the Lions to work more misdirection into the running attack to offset teams that are stuffing the line of scrimmage. Look for the Lions to show an end-around motion while still handing off to Royster. This technique is often used to keep the defensive ends and LBs from crashing the line of scrimmage. I would also not be surprised to see the Lions go with a power-I type of look with Powell, Suhey and Royster in there. The Owls are pretty good in run defense. It should be interesting. The front 7 for the Owls are the best that the Lions have faced to this point. If they walk up their safeties, Jarrett and Harris that will add more guys that have a knack for tackling. Harris is a big kid that likes to hit.
I don't know if Penn State will be able to run the ball much but I like Clark continuing to throw the ball all over the field and to finally hit some deep balls against an Owl secondary that gave up almost 300 yards to Villanova.
MH: Penn State's passing game is exciting to watch, and I agree with you that the Lions will likely leverage that intermediate passing attack to address Temple's blitzing. I expect to see TE Andrew Quarless, FB Joe Suhey and, as you said, Smith and Powell getting balls thrown their way in the flat.
Clark hit eight different receivers against Syracuse and has shown he has the ability to make some impressive reads, but he also needs to avoid forcing balls into tight windows. This is where the ricochets occur and opponents can pick them off.
In terms of the running game, I expect Temple to drop into the box, but not stuff it completely. I expect they may drop a safety but they'll have to stay honest with their coverage if they want a shot at this game. Again, fans are anxious about the PSU ground game, but Penn State has taken what the defense has given them. The line needs work to gel and pull together the zone blocking. I think you may see some shifts like last week with Quinn Barham and Johnnie Troutman seeing additional guard play, but the key in my view is holding through on those blocks to preserve the lane.
ND: The Penn State defense seemingly has not missed a beat despite losing so many guys. Sean Lee is quickly making people forget that he missed last year to a major knee injury. We'll see how dynamic this linebacking crew will be once Bowman is back in action. Though Navorro is shown on the depth chart as the starting linebacker, I don't expect to see him play this week considering he still is not healthy enough to practice with any real intensity. Stupar filled in last week but took some really poor angles and that resulted in the Orange picking up more yards than they should have. But, his INT helped balance out his performance. Stupar will only get better with more and more reps. The PSU linebackers will be asked to stuff an Owl running game that isn't all that impressive. Coach Golden tries to keep things balanced but Kee-Ayre Griffin is not really cutting it. He only averaged 3.3 yards per carry against Villanova despite carrying the ball 21 times. He will be called upon to keep the PSU defense from pinning their ears in attacking QB Vaughn Charlton.
Speaking of Charlton, he will get lots of credit for being able to make every type of throw. But, the guy is terribly inconsistent in my book. He completed better than 67% of his passes with 2 TDs over 317 yards in their season opener. But, he also threw 3 INTs. Michael Campbell is his go-to guy. The 6'2" junior racked up 93 yards on 5 catches including a 44-yard TD reception. He's a big play receiver. But, one can't throw the deep ball if one doesn't have the time. That's going to be the key here. If the Lions can put pressure on Charlton, which I believe they can, Charlton is going to lob up some balls for Wallace and Lynn to pick off. Wallace is getting the start this week after playing a back-up role as part of his punishment for cutting classes this summer.
I don't see Temple scoring on the starting defense. The running game is not effective and the passing game is too erratic. Look for the Lions to put a ton of pressure on Charlton and generate some turnovers.
MH: You're spot on with Bowman; he's seen limited practice reps this week, but as Sean Lee told us he's not expected to see a lot of action against Temple to allow him to fully recover for Big Ten play. A lot of folks were on Stupar, but that was his first start. I think he may have gotten caught up in the moment a bit and I expect him to be sharper this week.
This could be a long day for Charlton. If his line doesn't keep the wolves, er Lions at bay, particularly the interior guys Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu, he'll have to think on his feet and improvise with a collapsing pocket. I agree that this could easily force some quick, impromptu decisions that Penn State could capitalize on. Paterno said he wanted the defense to create more turnovers and the front four could help pad these numbers this week, if they can get consistent penetration.
I do expect Temple will find some success, but it won't be consistent enough to put a lot of points on the board. The issue is that the Owls find ways here and there to make some big plays, but then subsequently make a mistake that kills a drive for them.
ND: Much has been made about Penn State's kick coverage and there will be plenty of opportunity to work on it this week. Griffin is a pretty good kick returner. He's got a real good burst and he's wiggly so the kick coverage needs to square up and take him down. Boone continues to show why he's one of the better kickers in the conference. Wagner was able to get through last week without being tested. That might not be the case this week.
MH: Well, Nirav you warned everyone that Syracuse's Mike Jones is a good punt returner and he showed some of that last week. You have to give the other team credit sometimes. The key with the coverage is hang-time on the ball to let the coverage get downfield and discipline in lane assignments. I expect that they coaches may pull back on a drive here or there as the game progresses to get Colin Wagner some work with his placekicking.
Matchup to Kick Back and Enjoy:
ND: I wouldn't use the word "enjoy" but every fan of the Nittany Lions will be watching to see how the offensive lines matches up against the Temple front. The Owls yielded only 64 yards rushing to Villanova in their only game this season and their two defensive tackles are 300lbs. We'll see how the Penn State interior offensive line performs against Neblett and Wilkerson.
MH: I am looking at the other side of the ball and think I will enjoy Penn State's front four of Odrick, Ogbu, Latimore, Crawford and company against Temple's QB Charlton. If he can step up in the pocket or dash around the pressure it will give the Owls some success and allow them to build some confidence. If not, it could get real ugly, real quick.
Keys to the Game:
ND: Run Blocking. It's pretty straightforward, isn't it? With this being the last tune-up before the Big Ten schedule (with the exception of the bye week with Eastern Illinois visiting) kicks off, the Lions need to demonstrate that they have a viable running game. Otherwise, they need to scrap it and just throw the ball on every down. We'll see what lineup the Lions go with but the Lions must get this figured out if they want to compete against Iowa, Ohio State or even Michigan.
MH: Engagement. The PSU players have to keep their heads in this game and not sleep-walk through portions of the clash like they did in the previous two contests. That will be tough if they pull away, but they have to work on improving their game and keep a strong focus on maximizing their experience in this one to build upon.
ND: I don't think Penn State will find its running game in this one. It'll be better but that will have more to do with the competition than their ability. I like the defense forcing turnovers and helping the offense score without having to sustain long drives.
Penn State: 45, Temple: 7
MH: Although PSU will keep it simple, watch for them to try to work the run game and get some intermediate passing practice in on this one. Temple just doesn't have the horses in this one.
Penn State: 34, Temple: 6
Until next time,
Fight On State!