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Owls not as a big a threat this year

September 22, 2012
By Cory Giger - , The Altoona Mirror

Five things to look for as Penn State tries to remain unbeaten against Temple since 1941.

No. 1: Owls not same

Temple gave Penn State a scare last year in Philadelphia before losing, 14-10, and the program that hit rock bottom before Al Golden rebuilt it is still in decent shape under second-year coach Steve Addazio.

However, people who think Temple is still on the rise and improving every year should realize this Owls team is not as good as last year's squad, or that of recent years.

Temple has only three starters back on offense and five on defense from a team that went 9-4 overall and 5-2 in the MAC. Stud running back Bernard Pierce graduated, there's a new starting quarterback in Chris Coyer and a suspect offensive line.

Penn State doesn't have as good of a team as it did last year, but the Lions have much more talent than Temple on both sides of the ball. While this might not be a blowout like Nittany Lion fans used to see against the Owls, it shouldn't be anywhere near as close as last season.

No. 2: Looks good for PSU

Penn State is going to have a tough time beating teams that throw the ball well. But Temple isn't one of those teams.

Addazio wants to run the ball, and the Lions should be able to stop the Owls on the ground. Coyer has just 239 yards passing on only 12 completions through two games, and it's doubtful he can take advantage of the Lions' unproven secondary.

Temple is more balanced than Navy - virtually every team is - but unless Coyer has a career game, he's not the kind of quarterback and doesn't have the kind of weapons at receiver to do a lot of damage through the air. The Owls' top receiver has only four catches so far.

Given all that, it should be noted the Owls are coming off a bye week, so Addazio and his staff could have installed some new elements for this game. If you're Temple, you should throw everything including the kitchen sink at PSU in hopes of picking up one of the program's biggest wins ever.

SUBHD: No. 3: In the trenches

Penn State defensive tackles Jordan Hill and DaQuan Jones would be the players to watch for No. 5 below if not for the intriguing story regarding Temple running back Montel Harris.

The interior of Temple's offensive line is questionable, so Hill and Jones should be able to control things up front, help stifle the Owls' running game and get pressure on Coyer.

SUBHD: No. 4: Ficken's kickin'

Sam Ficken needs to make at least one or two decent-length field goals today for PSU, not to mention all of his PAT attempts.

The Big Ten season starts next week, and if the Lions are going to win three or four league games, at least one or two of them likely will come down to a field goal here or there from Ficken. The young man needs confidence, and the only way he's going to get that is to make some kicks.

And Bill O'Brien needs to let him try.

SUBHD: No. 5: Player to watch

As hinted at earlier, Harris has a fascinating background. He's coming off a hamstring injury suffered in week one, and if healthy, he could be a problem for the Lions' defense.

Harris rushed for an ACC-record 3,735 yards in three seasons at Boston College. He entered the season with more career yards than any other BCS conference player, plus he has 22 career 100-yard games.

Harris wound up at Temple after getting dismissed from the BC squad for a violation of team rules. He played in only two games at BC in 2011 because of a knee injury and received a medical redshirt.

Harris probably isn't the player he once was before his injuries, but he's had great success in his career, and PSU needs to be wary of him.

Matt Brown, who's coming off an ankle injury, is Temple's leading rusher (88 yards per game) and also will be a big focus of the Lions' defense.

Prediction: Penn State 30, Temple 13

Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.

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