There will be a familiar face on the opposing sideline at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday as Temple plays host to former head coach Geoff Collins and Georgia Tech. In two years as the Temple head man, Collins went 15-10 with a pair of bowl appearances before leaving for Atlanta.
The transition has not gone smoothly so far as Georgia Tech sits at 1-2 and is coming off a 27-24 overtime loss to FCS member The Citadel. The Yellow Jackets were blasted by Clemson to open the year, and their only win is a 14-10 victory over a South Florida team that has lost eight straight games to FBS schools dating back to last season.
Things appeared to be smooth sailing for Temple under first-year head coach Rod Carey. The Owls opened with an easy win over FCS opponent Bucknell and an upset of a ranked Maryland team, but they were blasted last week at Buffalo, 38-22. Saturday's contest in Philadelphia will be the first-ever between the schools.
Georgia Tech at Temple
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Temple -9.5
When Georgia Tech Has the Ball
In the transition from Paul Johnson's triple-option attack, the Georgia Tech offensive philosophy this season seems to be to try a lot of different things and see what works. So far, the answer has been not much. Through three games, Georgia Tech ranks dead last among ACC teams in total offense, averaging fewer than 285 yards per game. The Yellow Jackets have scored just 52 total points this season — the same amount they gave up in the opener to Clemson — and just 14 points in each of their first two games against FBS competition.
Lucas Johnson and Tobias Oliver have split time at quarterback this season, but as passers, the two have combined to complete just over 50 percent of their passes and have three interceptions to just one touchdown. The lone bright spot thus far for the Georgia Tech offense has been sophomore running back Jordan Mason, who has rushed for 249 yards and four touchdowns on 5.7 yards per carry.
Despite giving up 38 points last week to Buffalo, the Temple defense has been solid. The Owls held the Bulls to fewer than 300 yards of offense, but four turnovers were far too much to overcome. On the season, Temple ranks 19th nationally in total defense, allowing fewer than 280 yards per game.
Sophomore defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh is off to a monster start with three sacks and 18 total tackles. Junior cornerback Harrison Hand also has 18 total tackles and one of the two interceptions for Temple this season. Temple hasn't allowed a visiting team to score more than 17 points in over a year.
When Temple Has the Ball
Temple junior quarterback Anthony Russo, at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, has a big arm, but the bugaboo for him has been turnovers. Russo was intercepted three times in last week's loss against Buffalo but is averaging about 315 yards passing per game and has already thrown 10 touchdowns. Russo will be making his 14th career start on Saturday and has only one start in his career in which he did not throw an interception.
The talent around Russo isn't bad; to this point, running backs Re'Mahn Davis and Jager Gardner have combined for 380 yards rushing and three touchdowns on nearly six yards per carry. Sophomore wide receiver Jadan Blue is in the midst of a breakout season with a team-high 336 yards receiving on 23 catches. Senior 220-pounder Isaiah Wright is more of a possession receiver and leads the team with three touchdown grabs.
Statistically, Georgia Tech ranks just 11th in the ACC in total defense, but since the 52-14 stomping at the hands of reigning national champion Clemson in the opener, things have gotten better. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a loss to an FCS school, but since the opener, they are allowing just over 300 yards per game.
Linebackers David Curry and Charlie Thomas may be one of the more underrated tandems in the ACC at the position. The two have combined for 43 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. In the secondary, Tariq Carpenter is a steady player who can cover but is there to lay the wood.
For the time being, Geoff Collins seems to have a long way to go to get Georgia Tech to where it wants to be. The Yellow Jackets have shored things up defensively in recent weeks, but Temple has the ability to stretch the defense vertically and a nice tandem of backs to pound a defense that spends a lot of time on the field. Fresh off a loss to an FCS team, confidence can't be too high for Georgia Tech. And oh yeah, the Owls have won six straight home games.
Prediction: Temple 27, Georgia Tech 13
(Top photo courtesy of ramblinwreck.com)