Staff Predictions: Penn State Vs. Temple

Football is finally back, as are Onward State’s staff predictions. Last week we took a guess at what the team’s record would be, and this week we’re trying our hand at predicting what will happen Saturday. We’re reasonably optimistic that a win is on the way for the soon-to-be 1-0 Nittany Lions.

Ben Berkman (season record: 0-0): Penn State 30, Temple 17

Penn State last lost a season-opener in 2012. But that was a different era, one with a different head coach and starting quarterback. Christian Hackenberg, about to start in his third consecutive season-opener, performed admirably in his first two, both in high-pressure stadiums. As a true freshman, the second to start at quarterback since 1910, he led Penn State into Met Life Stadium and escaped with a victory over Syracuse. A year later, he commanded a game-winning drive in Ireland against Central Florida. Hackenberg, and his now-improved offensive line and receiver corps, enter Lincoln Financial Field Saturday. Though they’re on the road, they should feel right at home opening the season under a massive spotlight.

2015 Temple, by all accounts, is an improved version of the team Penn State smoked 30-13 last year to earn bowl eligibility. Even so, I can’t see the Nittany Lions losing. Defensively, Penn State returns Anthony Zettel and a host of corners that should limit much scoring. Hackenberg and his weapons will have plenty of possessions to run up the count.

Doug Leeson (season record: 0-0): Penn State 16, Temple 9

There’s no way that I don’t pick Penn State to win this game, but the Nittany Lions really should be on upset alert. I wrote a lot more in-depth about that earlier this week, but if you haven’t read it, here’s the argument: Temple’s defense between 2013 and 2014 was by far the most improved unit in the history of the S&P+ stat, and Penn State’s defense ranked in the top three in multiple stats. The Owls’ offense straight-up sucks, like it’s horrible, but then again so was Penn State’s offensive line, playcalling, and finishing drives at times. Both defenses will still be among the country’s best, and the offenses should both improve. The game will come down to which offense makes the right play at the right time, or which defense makes a rare mistake.

That being said, Penn State’s offense and defense are both probably better than Temple’s. No matter how many starters the Owls’ defense returns (all of them), will it be enough to stop a hopefully-finally-elite Hackenberg and, oh boy, Hamilton, Godwin, Lewis, Blacknall, Thompkins, Lynch, Barkley, Gesicki, Wilkerson, and Carter?

16 is a weird score to predict, but I think this will be a weird game. Maybe Joey Julius misses an extra point in there, maybe Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson force a safety, maybe the coaching staff abandons its nice-guy act and goes for a two-point conversion to dispel “rivalry” talk with Temple. All I know for sure is that a high-scoring affair would be a shock.

Sara Civian (season record: 0-0): Penn State 22, Temple 7

I can’t imagine a universe where Temple would beat Penn State in this game. Beating Temple is a unique source of pride for Penn State, and the Nittany Lions have proved that 31 times in a row. They’ve held Temple to under 21 points-per-game since 1995.

With that in mind, this isn’t the Temple we are used to. As Doug said, the Owls’ defense is going to be good. Penn State absolutely has to step up on offense and control the game from the start. Since both teams have strong defensive lines and questionable offenses, I predict that this will be a low-scoring game.

With history and generally being better at the game of football on Penn State’s side, I expect the Lions to pull off a win. They’re going to have to if they don’t want the season’s tempo completely obliterated before the second game.

Jacob Abrams (season record: 0-0): Penn State 24, Temple 17

I believe that there’s going to be a repeat of the game against Temple last year in Happy Valley. Penn State will leave Philadelphia 1-0 and the team will come back with momentum for the upcoming five-game home stand. Penn State had success against this Temple team last year even with an inconsistent play style in James Franklin’s first year as head coach. Now the Nittany Lions return for a second year, expecting to be settled in with the system to build on what they had last season. The squad was successful against this Temple team in 2014, so that should translate well into their 2015 matchup as the majority of Temple’s players have returned from last season.

Temple’s roster is mostly returning players, so they will be improved. Temple can put up points, it just depends if Bob Shoop and his top defense will let them. For me, the key to the game will be the transition of Christian Hackenberg in James Franklin’s offense. He has the weapons around him to be successful, he just needs to execute this time and has high expectations as this is a big year for the junior quarterback. Temple is the perfect matchup for him to give fans another first impression, as it’s a team he had success against last year and is poised to play very well.

The defenses will be crucial and will ultimately be the deciding factor in this matchup. Both teams enter with top defenses and have the potential to win the game for their team. I still believe that Penn State’s defense will be able to handle Temple more than Temple can contain Penn State’s offense so I give the Nittany Lions the edge.

Mike Reisman (season record 0-0): Penn State 27, Temple 17

This year’s Temple team will likely be one of the most competitive teams the school has seen in years, if not decades. They return all of their defensive starters, and keep some key offensive pieces from a year ago. Pair that with a week one matchup against a very young team, and a home game, and Temple should have its best chance at beating the Nittany Lions in a long, long time.

And yet, I just don’t see Temple pulling it off. Penn State brings a very talented team to Philadelphia, and while it may take a half to get going, I don’t see them losing this game. As good as Temple may be, the Owls simply aren’t quite at the level that Penn State is talent-wise, and while this game may be very close for a while, I think the Lions pull away late to seal an opening week win.

Ben Rappaport (season record 0-0): Penn State 34, Temple 10

Penn State is not going to lose to Temple. Penn State is not going to lose to Temple. Penn State is not going to lose to Temple.

I know this Temple team may be the strongest Owl’s squad since the Golden years, but I would place a large amount of money on James Franklin’s squad getting the job done this Saturday. Sure, we’ll start off slow; I will definitely be worried when it is 13-10 at halftime, but with the re-amped offensive line, a motivated Hackenberg, and perhaps the deepest receiving core since 2009, Penn State will pull out the W.

Our offense is explosive and our defense is rock solid. Our strong front seven is about to prove why they are garnering an incredible amount of hype. Lead by preseason All-American Anthony Zettel, Temple won’t know how to handle the pure power and speed of our defense. With a lot of Penn State fans making the trip down to Philly, the crowd will be pretty neutral, and most likely won’t play a factor. Temple won’t know how to handle us once the nervous jitters fade away and our offensive gets into rhythm. Look for this game to get ugly fast.

Alex Robinson (season record 0-0): Penn State 17, Temple 14

There are so many unknowns for this game that it’s hard to pick a winner.

Christian Hackenberg has a solid running back and a wide receiver group that is the deepest it has been in years. Temple, on the other hand, has all 11 starters on defense returning to a unit that held Penn State to just 23 offensive points at home (Grant Haley had a pick-six).

The key to this one, as it was all last season, is the offensive line. Will it hold up and give Hackenberg time to throw? Or will JUCO transfer Paris Palmer and crew have trouble adjusting to the Owls’ veteran D? I think Penn State will come out on top, but it’ll be uncomfortable into the fourth quarter. Expect Hackenberg to hit Godwin for a go-ahead touchdown late, and Nyeem Wartman-White to make a play to seal the victory.

The only thing I know for sure? We’re all gonna need a drink after this one.

David Abruzzese (season record 0-0): Penn State 24, Temple 17

Historically, the Penn State-Temple “rivalry” has been predominately one-sided. Penn State holds a favorable 39-3-1 overall record over its Philadelphia neighbors, but don’t count out the Owls just yet — this isn’t your average Temple football team. In 2014, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg and Temple quarterback P.J. Walker shared similar stat lines. Walker threw for 2,317 yards, with a TD/INT ratio of 13/15. Hackenberg edged out Walker in the yardage department, throwing for 2,977 yards, but the two shared eerily similar TD/INT ratios, with Hackenberg finishing with a ratio of 12/15. That’s not to say one is more skilled than the other, but statistically, the two gunslingers were similar in performance. That said, I firmly believe Hackenberg’s sophomore hiccup was just that — a slump resulting from shaky offensive line play and natural regression after a dominant freshman season. 2015 will be a different year for Hackenberg, and he’ll test that logic on Saturday. Expect a sharp performance from the junior quarterback, coupled with a smothering onslaught from Penn State’s top-tier defense. The result should be too much for Temple to handle, giving Penn State a statement win at the home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

What’s your prediction? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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