We take a break from your regularly scheduled basketball excitement to bring you ... football. Yeah, I don't like it much either. But it's September, what else are you gonna do?
Anyway, next up for the Terrapins is a visit to the Temple Owls, a return game to the team that first exposed Maryland last year. For an insider take, we turned to the fantastic Owlsblog, whose John Lamb was kind enough to virtually sit down with us to exchange some thoughts on the matchup.
Make sure to head over there and read our take on it as well, but first, take a look to see their prediction, thoughts on Temple's ground game, a few names you need to know, and much more:
Temple took Maryland to the woodshed last year in College Park. The Terrapins have probably gotten more talented, but much less experienced. What are the big changes for Temple, and how favorably do the Owls compare to last season's squad?
The Owls still have talent at a a bunch of different positions but the depth that they had been able to lean on is gone. With only nine starters returning there are certainly going to be some growing pains this season but getting the younger guys a lot of game experience will prove to be beneficial in the long term. It's nearly impossible to replace a guy like Bernard Pierce but Matt Brown (916 yards and six touchdowns last season) and familiar foe Montel Harris (if he can get --and stay-- healthy) certainly aren't the worst options in the world to do that.
This applies to pretty much every team in college football but probably none more so than Temple: if the injuries start to pile up than the Owls are cooked. Temple has talent at the top of the depth chart at every position but if some guys get nicked up and miss time then things will start to get hairy. Temple's renaissance was precipitated by the fact that Al Golden played a ton of true freshmen to get them game experience and to build a foundation. Golden also went 5-19 his first two years on North Broad Street. While no one is expecting the Owls to run the table this season, a 3-8 or 4-7 year will certainly cause some discontent amongst the diehards.
I look at Temple's offense and I see a still somewhat unproven QB in Chris Coyer, a new backfield without Bernard Pierce, and a largely new offensive line to boot. Big things weren't really expected, I'd say. And yet they show up in their opener, rush for 300 yards on the ground, and drop 41 points - and that's without Montel Harris. What went so right against Villanova, and how confident are you in the offense to put up big numbers?
I will be very interested to see how the rushing attacks works against a legitimate Division I defense. I think 300 rushing yards was the exception but I do think the Owls will still be able to move the ball on the ground as Matt Brown is very elusive and insanely fast. He'll get his whether it's the first teamers blocking for him or a group of true freshmen. Chris Coyer is also very effective at running Addazio's hybrid spread option offense so while it may be easy to look at his and call him unproven the reality is that he flat out gets it done. He's undefeated as a starter since taking over the job last season and has provided stability at a position that had been in flux the previous few seasons.
I'm wary to put too much stock in a game against a FBS opponent but Addazio made it clear in the postgame press conference that he was looking to establish a power running game against the Wildcats and his team did just that. The common thought is that he kept the game plan basic so as to not give the Terps and Penn State too much tape to go off of. I think that the playbook will be expanded as the season goes on and I'm sure we'll see some wrinkles on Saturday afternoon.
On the other side of the ball, it seems a lot of experienced has left and the front seven looks largely new. The opening game highlighted some of the struggles they may have, giving up over 200 yards and 4.5 yards per carry to an unspectacular Villanova team. Maryland will look to pound the ball anyway, and that performance is surely appetizing for Randy Edsall and Mike Locksley. Are you expecting those numbers to improve over the course of the year, or is stopping the rush a real concern this season?
They're going to have to improve for Temple to have a chance to make some noise in the Big East. Addazio had this to say when addressing his young defense on the Big East weekly teleconference:
A lot of Temple's defensive woes can be traced to the fact that Villanova switched quarterbacks early on in the game, moving from a pocket passer in Chris Polony to the more mobile John Robertson. Robertson is a redshirt freshman so I doubt that the Owls were prepared for him so when he came in and started running a no-huddle offense it threw Temple for a loop. While Villanova certainly got theirs, they only scored 10 points. If the Owls are going to be a bend-but-not-break defense then so be it; Temple winning games is still a novelty for a lot of fans around these parts so they don't care how it happens as long as it happens.
We know about Matt Brown, Levi Brown, and Justin Gildea. Give us two names, one on each side of the ball, we might not know who'll make a big impact on Saturday.
I'll give you two names on the offensive side of the ball: the first being slot receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick. He "led" the Owls with two catches for 33 yards against Nova but will probably see his fair share of targets against the Terps as Addazio has stated repeatedly this week that he is looking to let Chris Coyer throw the ball more. The Owls don't really have a vertical threat on the outside so a lot of what they do in the air will come on intermediate routes.
The other offensive player to watch is sophomore running back Kenny Harper. With Montel Harris' status in doubt (he went from "should be ready" for Maryland to a very touch and go "day-to-day" in a few day's time), Harper will be leaned on heavily to spell Matt Brown. He racked up 49 yards and a touchdown on five carries and caught an 8-yard shovel pass for a score against Nova and generally looked a lot more comfortable and confident out there. Harper is a nice compliment to Brown as he is a bit more of a between-the-tackles power runner.
On defense the guy to look out for is Nate D. Smith, a redshirt freshman who plays at the MIKE for Temple. He led the Owls with seven solo tackles against Villanova and forced a fumble that set up a touchdown that gave the Owls a two-score lead. He was all over the field last Friday night and played with the poise and confidence of an upperclassman. Smith also has a football pedigree as his older brother is former Philadelphia Eagle and Baltimore Raven L.J. Smith. So, there's that.
In a bigger picture sense, you guys have completed a pretty substantial step-up, officially rejoining the BCS party. (Sure, it's the Big East, but we're in the ACC so we'll spare you the jokes for own sake.) How big is that move for the long-term future of Temple athletics?
I think this move will have the biggest impact on the basketball program. For years the Owls carried the Atlantic 10 but ultimately toiled just under the radar nationally. Fran Dunphy has done some great things in recent years and now that he has the Big East to sell to fans and potential recruits I think that the team has a shot to enter the upper echelon of college basketball.
The football program will also reap the benefits of this move as the new television contract will completely dwarf the amount of money the school was getting from the MAC and Atlantic 10. Temple lost about $600,000 per year playing football in the MAC but the school should be in the black from here on out. Also, the administration that is in place this time around actually understands the value of high caliber college athletics as marketing for the university. The president of the school during the dark days of Temple football, David Adamany, helped improve Temple's academic profile but wouldn't have shed a tear if athletics were dropped all together.
This will come across as totally homerish but I truly believe that Temple is a sleeping giant in the world of college athletics. There is no reason why the football team can't consistently win seven to nine games a year and both the men's and women's basketball programs should be able to bring in enough of the high-caliber local talent to become factors nationally. I'm not predicting national championships or anything but I think all of the major programs will be very relevant nationally sooner rather than later.
And last one: who are you picking? Bonus points for the score.
I'm going with Temple in this one but I really expect it to be much closer than last year's game. I think a late touchdown will seal the deal for the Owls...24-17 sounds good to me.