Nitty Lions Can’t Overlook Upset-Minded Owls
Statistics can be misleading. They are easily manipulated and easily misconstrued. But one stat that doesn’t lie is 39-3-1.
39-3-1 is the all-time series record between Penn State and Temple, one of the most lopsided rivalries in all of college football. In Saturday’s 2015 season opener, however, the Temple Owls might have a shot at their first upset over the Blue and White since 1941.
If Temple has any hopes of a Week 1 victory, it will come from their defense. Defensive Coordinator Phil Snow’s unit was impressive in 2014, boasting the nation’s 4th best scoring defense (17.5 points allowed per game) and 24th best total defense (341.1 yards allowed per game).
But the most alarming stat for Penn State offensive coordinator John Donovan? The Owls were 13th in the nation in passing defense.
It should be no secret to Penn State fans that quarterback Christian Hackenberg and the passing game struggled mightily last season. A thin, inexperienced offensive line paired with a young receiving corps lead to an inept offense all year long. This young unit has another offseason of experience under their belt, but that does not guarantee improvement.
Look for Temple’s veteran defense, which returns 10 starters from 2014, to try to rattle Hackenberg early. If they can set the tone, and possibly force an early turnover or big play, Penn State’s offense might be in major trouble.
On the other side of the ball, there is less cause for concern. Temple was only able to muster 248 yards of total offense in last year’s 30-13 Beaver Stadium blowout. The Nittany Lion defense made matters worse by forcing a whopping five turnovers.
Bob Shoop’s dominant defense may have lost some pieces, such as veteran linebacker Mike Hull, but there is enough talent returning across the board that Penn State should be able to contain the Owl offense.
Penn State head coach James Franklin is well aware of the lopsided series. However, in his weekly press conference, he noted that the overall series record might not indicate how close some of the recent games have been:
“The overall record is one thing, but look at the scores. 2012: 24-12, 2011: 14-10 at [Lincoln Financial Field] last time we were there, 2010: 22-13. Although the overall record is strongly in Penn State’s favor, the games have gotten closer and closer and closer over the years,” said Franklin.
Taking Temple seriously will be key to assuring a Nittany Lion victory on Saturday. While the Owls might not be the toughest opponent on Penn State’s schedule, they are hardly a pushover. Their frisky defense will test how much Penn State’s offense has improved right away.
If the 2015 Nittany Lions saunter into Lincoln Financial Field expecting an easy win, they will make it into the history books… for all the wrong reasons. But if they respect the Owls, look for James Franklin and the team to pick up a win in week 1.
Jeff Capanelli is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Jeff Capanelli is a senior from Fair Haven, New Jersey, majoring in broadcast journalism. He will be contributing to the Centre County Report and ComRadio during the 2016 fall semester.
After being a talk show co-host for two years, Jeff now produces and hosts his very own talk show on ComRadio: The Jeff Capanelli Hour. He also contributes to ComRadio’s sports department with written columns, podcasts, live production and play-by-play of various Penn State sports.
Jeff spent the spring of 2016 in Los Angeles, California as a member of the inaugural Penn State Hollywood program. He worked as a video production & strategy intern for Disney Interactive Media, focusing specifically on emerging content.
That following summer, Jeff worked as an editorial intern for Scout Media in New York City.