What to Watch vs. Penn State
LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD, 3:30 P.M., ESPN, 97.5 THE FANATIC
2. Walker’s return to freshman form. Frankly, you’d think that might be solely linked to Anderson being back, but not really. The North Jersey native seemed lost in uncertainty last season, perhaps a bit overwhelmed with more on his plate, and far removed from the “let it rip" individual who had opposing coaches gasping at his athleticism and innate feel for the moment. The junior started slow last season and never really got it going as he had in 2013. A big play, passing or running, early in this one could prove a springboard to something special for Walker this afternoon and beyond. His former Elizabeth High School teammate Jahad Thomas proving to be a legit, yardage-churning RB wouldn’t hurt, either.
3. Temple’s defensive front being able to hang all game long. Believers in themselves as one of the toughest, most physical teams in the country, the Owls got pushed around by the Nittany Lions the last time they met. PSU’s season-best 254 rushing yards on 47 carries would attest to that. Keep in mind that the OL was not exactly a “strength” last year for the Lions, and they are improved there thanks to experience (six on roster can claim having started games) and more depth. Running behind that group will be Akeem Lynch, who torched Temple for 130 yards and a TD on just 18 carries. If the Owls
4. Temple’s awareness of how good Christian Hackenberg really is. Ironically, the Owls’ lack of success in stopping the PSU ground game in 2014 almost was erased by how well they did in containing Hackenburg. Frankly, the hosts can’t count on a repeat poor performance by the junior signal-caller whom many believe will be the top draft-eligible player come spring. The 6-4, 230-pounder has all the requisite tools (i.e., he can make every damn throw and has a brain) for an NFL starter, and he’s a far better athlete than most realize.
5. The crowd. The game just reached a sellout Friday, which seems quite odd considering the stranglehold of support PSU has had in the region for decades. You’d have figured every seat at the Linc for this one would’ve been taken shortly after tickets went on sale. That being said, it almost does pave the way to a more even crowd. Typically, the “visiting” Lions hold sway with two-thirds or more of the crowd for games played here. That it took so long for the sellout to hit suggests it was Temple fans doing the “Johnny Come Lately” buying.
6. The unis. Unless it gets outfitted in absolutely dreadful gear one time, Temple wins this matchup whenever the two meet in Philly. The Owls just recently underwent yet another “redraft” of their uniforms and helmets that will be unveiled today. It seemed entirely unnecessary, and almost more of a nod to a new contract with Under Armour, but, here’s the key, the Cherry & White still look good. A little different, but good. PSU, on the other hand, blech. Awesome at home, with the white-blue-white combo, no doubt … but on the road, and in all white, blech. Forever blech.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org