Breaking it down: Penn State vs. Temple
Who: Penn State vs. Temple
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
Spread: Penn State -7
Matchup to Watch: Tyler Matakevich vs. Christian Hackenberg
Matakevich is at the center of the fourth-ranked defense in 2014…that returns all 11 starters. He and the stout Owls will look to make life difficult for Hackenberg. They did last year. The Lions pulled away with a 30-13 win, but Matakevich picked off Hackenberg and held him to 112 yards passing. If not for P.J. Walker tossing four picks of his own, that could’ve been a different story. For all the talk about Hackenberg’s draft stock, he has to look like an elite pocket passer against Temple for that talk to be warranted.
Thing I’m excited to see: The PSU O-Line
Rarely am I excited to see offensive line play, but with how much we’ve been hearing about the Lions line, it’s hard not to be. Did getting whipped last year serve them well? Are they more physically prepared to handle the physicality of Big Ten football? They better be, or else we’ll see a repeat of last year’s first half that ended without a Penn State touchdown …in Happy Valley. That can’t happen. Junior college transfer Paris Palmer has the potential to make a major difference at left tackle. If this line does show the improvement it’s been talking about, maybe we’ll see how high Hackenberg can fly.
Number to Remember: 2
That was Penn State’s ranking in total defense last year. And Temple’s offense? Well, it was 115th in the country in rushing. Last time I checked, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson are still wreaking all sorts of havoc up the middle. And if they can’t get into the backfield, the Lions have one of the nation’s better secondaries with Marcus Allen and Jordan Lucas locking down the back end. Bob Shoop’s defense shows up against everyone. Yards certainly won’t come easy for the Owls.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Temple 10
I’m all in on the Lions. Well, I am in Week 1. This is an important confidence game for the offensive line. The last thing they want are the groans of, “hear we go again.” I don’t think the switch will be completely flipped against that Owls front, but I do think the Lions do more than last year to establish the pass identity. Hackenberg throws for a couple scores, Akeel Lynch looks like the feature back the Lions need and everybody goes back to the Valley happy. I apologize for that.