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Temple Owls vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Prediction

Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley

It is a phrase that may be considered a once-in-a-lifetime fact: Penn State is looking for revenge against Temple. In football.

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A week after taking a loss on the road on the west side of the state, the Nittany Lions return home to Beaver Stadium to host the Owls from Philadelphia. Temple ambushed Penn State last season and sacked Christian Hackenberg 10 times, as the Owls ripped off 27 straight points to stun the blue and white.

Things should be a tad different this season as Temple’s defense takes a step back, Penn State’s offense comes together and the venue shifts to State College. One thing remains constant, and that’s the pressure on James Franklin to get a win. The coach who once shouted Penn State is going to “dominate the State” is at risk of losing three straight games to teams in the Keystone State, in all three FBS stadiums.

Temple at Penn State

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 12 p.m. ET

TV: Big Ten Network

Spread: Penn State -9

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Three Things to Watch

1. Can Penn State avoid a slow start?
Penn State’s offense is still working out the kinks with a new starting quarterback and offensive coordinator. If you can go off the first two games of the season, it appears the trend is Penn State’s offense gets off to a slow start but once it starts getting in gear, it is tough to get it to stop. Such was the case last week on the road at Pittsburgh. Penn State’s offense sputtered and had costly turnovers that helped Pitt build a substantial lead the Nittany Lions were unable to battle back all the way from. But they did show an ability to climb out of the hole.

Against Temple, the key will be to get quarterback Trace McSorley to protect the football better and get in a rhythm earlier in the game. Temple’s defense may still be a feisty one for the Nittany Lions, but it is not as fearsome as it was a season ago.

2. Injured thumb has Temple RB Jahad Thomas in doubt
Temple could be without one of its best offensive players this week. Thomas injured his left thumb late in training camp and has not appeared in either of Temple’s first two games against Army and Stony Brook. He returned to practice this week but was forced to leave Tuesday’s session early after appearing to be in some pain after making a catch. It remains unknown if he will see the field on Saturday, or how effective he may be if he should happen to get some carries.

Thomas rushed for a team-high 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns last year for the Owls, including 135 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening win against Penn State.

3. Saquon Barkley is ready to explode
If you are waiting for Penn State’s sophomore running back to explode, this could potentially be the week. Barkley rushed for 85 yards and four touchdowns last week on the other side of the state, and 105 yards in the opener, but the time is now to witness just how big of a factor he can be in a game.

Don’t be fooled by stats through two weeks, because it shows the Owls at the bottom of the AAC in rushing defense. Keep in mind that is because Army piled up 329 yards in its run-heavy offensive attack in the first game of the season. Temple held Penn State to 80 rushing yards a season ago. Barkley will look to improve on that number all by himself in the first half.

Final Analysis

Penn State is coming off a tough loss against Pittsburgh, but there were some positives to draw form it. First, the offense is a potent unit once it gets going. It just needs to start better than it has in the past two games. Temple’s offense is not one that will strike much fear in the Nittany Lions on a regular basis, but this is not one of the better Penn State defenses we have seen over the years. This Penn State defense can be cracked with a versatile offense and misdirection and speed. This is not quite a strong area for the Owls, however, so even an average Penn State defense should be able to contain Temple and give the offense a chance to take control.

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Prediction: Penn State 27, Temple 17

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook