PENN STATE AT TEMPLE
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT
Las Vegas Line: Temple +6.5; O/U 44
Admiral Ackbar’s Trap of the Week
Temple is a team to watch in the American Athletic Conference championship race this season, and ostensibly the Group of Five New Year’s Six conversation. What makes the Owls tough is precisely what vexed Penn State a season ago: an aggressive defense. The Owls accrued 80 tackles for loss in 2014 and held opponents to just 3.78 yards per rush attempt.
Temple swarms in the front seven, starting with All-America caliber linebacker Tyler Matakevich. Matakevich is the G-5 Scooby Wright: an unrelenting ball-hawk who seems to be in on every play the Temple defense makes.
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg received a lion’s (pun intended) share of blame for Penn State’s offensive inconsistencies a season ago, but he had little time to operate behind a porous offensive line. Likewise, the Nittany Lions mounted a rushing attack that was hardly a threat at all at No. 120 in the nation.
Akeel Lynch is looked upon to elevate the stagnant rushing offense — and Penn State needs him to, lest Hackenberg spend another season with defenders constantly in his face. Look for Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow to try exploiting that with an aggressively called game.
However, what Temple promises to bring Penn State’s way on the defensive side, the Owls can expect in kind on the other end. The Owls were abysmal offensively a season ago, particularly with the rush. The Owls will be in striking distance all afternoon, but Hackenberg makes just enough big connections with talented wide-receiving duo DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis to escape Philadelphia with a win.
MY PREDICTION: Penn State 21, Temple 17