It's simple, Penn State's game against Temple this afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN 2) could make or break the Nittany Lions' 2012 season. Obviously, not break in terms of qualifying for a bowl game or BIG 10 Championship game, but break in terms of spirit. It's important for Bill O'Brien to keep the Penn State program above water, before they head into the BIG 10 schedule next weekend.
It's well known in the Pennsylvania sports landscape that Temple looks at Penn State like a huge opportunity to make themselves relevant in the PA college spectrum. Penn State and Pitt have always been the top dogs in PA college football with Temple far on the outside looking in. Temple has dropped 36 of its past 37 games to Penn State - seven PSU wins were vacated between 2003-2011 because of NCAA sanctions - including 29 straight defeats.
In the last three seasons however, the Owls have gotten better going 9-4, 8-4, and 9-4 with two bowl appearances and and a bowl win over Wyoming last season, just the fourth bowl victory in school history. The Owls are also very well coached with former Florida University offensive coordinator Steve Addazio at the helm. Addazio is fiery to say the least and has a 10-5 record as head man for the Owls.
The Owls are coming into Beaver Stadium 1-1 after a win over Philadelphia area rival Villanova 41-10 and a home loss to Maryland 36-27. The Owls dawn a talented tailback in Matt Brown who is averaging over six yards per carry. Most of Brown's yards came against Villanova rushing for 141 yards against the Wildcats. The Terrapins shut Brown down, allowing him just 35 yards on 10 carries. Quarterback Chris Coyer is another option on the ground for the Owls and should be someone that the Nittany Lions pay attention later today, rushing for 133 yards on 30 carries in 2012.
As a team, Temple is averaging around 177 yards per game on the ground. The Nittany Lions have played well against the run so far this season letting up just 150 yards per game. The only time PSU has struggled against the run was against Ohio in the second half when the Bobcats piled up over 300 yards of total offense in the third and fourth quarter. Other than that they have been stout, causing eight turnovers in their last two games, giving the Nittany Lion offense opportunities to put points on the board.
A good sign for the Penn State secondary, which has been shaky at times this season is that Temple has struggled passing the football this season. The Owls average just 120 yards per game through the air and quarterback Chris Coyer is just 12-29 for 239 yards and three scores in three games. The Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris and Adrian Amos are exceptional talents, but behind them there is a lot of youth and inexperience. The safety spot has probably been the weakest defensive position so far this season. Veteran Malcolm Willis is doing a formidable job at free safety, but Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Jake Fagnano have struggled at times in the strong safety spot.
The outcome against Temple will most likely once again come down to the offense. If history repeats itself the PSU "D" will do their job, so it's up to Matt McGloin and the offense to do their part. McGloin has been solid this season, going 59 of 104 for 688 yards, eight touchdowns, and just one interception. Still, McGloin has struggled with the game on the line and has not been able to come up with the big play in late game scenarios. However, and eight to one touchdown to interception ratio is impressive, so if McGloin continues to take care of the ball the PSU offense could thrive.
Another subject that I'm sure has been on the minds of PSU faithful this past week was USC's loss to Stanford on Saturday night. Former Penn State star running back Silas Redd decided to abandon ship to play for the Trojans this season and a chance at a National Championship. So far, Redd has rushed for 180 yards on 37 carries and three touchdowns. You can almost lock it up that Redd would have doubled those numbers playing for the Blue and White and maybe PSU could be 3-0 instead of 1-2. Redd would most certainly be type casted as a hero figure for leading the Nittany Lions through all the turmoil, but now we'll never know, and it look Silas won;t play for a National Title afterall.
Another Penn State transfer Justin Brown is probably kicking himself right now. Brown, who transferred to Oklahoma has to have his eye on former teammate Allen Robinson and the pass happy Penn State offense. Robinson posted a career-high 136 receiving yards against Navy to lead Penn State for the third-straight game and posted his first career 100-yard game. He now has 322 receiving yards on the season averaging 107 yards per game. Robinson also had five catches in the game and now has 24 on the season (8.0 rpg). The Penn State record for a sophomore is 48 set by Bobby Engram (1993) and Deon Butler (2006). The all-time season mark is 63 held by O.J. McDuffie (1992) and Engram (1995). Robinson also leads the BIG 10 in receiving yards and catches on the season.
It's just another important game for Bill O'Brien and Penn State football this weekend. Under the circumstances every single game on the Penn State schedule this season is vital to the success of the future of the program. The NIttany Lions got their foot in the door last week with a win over Navy. A win over the Owls could possibly open the door for a successful 2012 season.