Previewing Maryland-Temple

Image from the AP.

Hey, remember that well-coached Miami squad earlier this year? Maryland gets to play their coach’s old squad this Saturday. Temple is a team that’s hard to get a gauge on as of yet, and Maryland may be the game where we discover how good the Owls truly are. They destroyed a solid FCS team in Villanova and a terrible FBS team in Akron by a combined score of 83-10, and then lost to a very down Penn State squad 14-10 at home. Like usual, let’s run down this Saturday’s game, unit by unit.

Maryland Passing Offense vs. Temple Passing Defense:

The Terps currently rank 15th in the nation with nearly 320 passing yards per game, but without Ronnie Tyler and Quintin McCree, their air game is a completely different story. Danny O’Brien looked flat uncomfortable with Tony Logan and Kerry Boykins, and had possibly the worst game of his young career against West Virginia last week. The predictable bubble screens are getting tired, fast, but luckily Kevin Dorsey and Matt Furstenburg have been on their game so far, as has the offensive line.

Temple is 14th in the nation in pass efficiency defense and 50th in pass yardage defense, allowing  less than 200 yards per game through the air. Keep in mind, they have played Villanova and Akron, as well as a very poor Penn State squad. Two of the starters in the secondary graduated, but they’ve had solid seasons this year from safeties Kevin Kroboth and Justin Gildea. Defensive end Adrian Robinson is always a player to be wary of, as well.

The Owls have performed well thus far against the pass, but they honestly haven’t played anyone with close to Maryland’s ability in the passing game. The Terps have found success, but they’ve lost two of their top three contributors to suspension. Advantage: Push. We don’t know enough about either of these units to make a decision either way.

Maryland Rushing Offense vs. Temple Rushing Defense:

The return of D.J. Adams made quite a difference for Maryland’s running game last week. Davin Meggett had another good game (19 rushes for 113 yards and a score), and Adams was an excellent change of pace back (12 rushes for 64 yards and two scores). The offensive line continues to be very, very good, and add in a little Jeremiah Wilson and Justus Pickett and you’ve got a running back corps.

Temple has been good against the run as well, ranking 25th in the nation by allowing around 85 yards per game. Even with the loss of first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson, they’ve been very good, as strong side linebacker Tahir Whitehead has been very good against the run, and they have a pair of strong and agile tackles in Shahid Paulhill and Kadeem Custis.

The return of Adams makes all the difference, however. Advantage: Maryland.

Temple Passing Offense vs. Maryland Passing Defense:

This is one area where Temple has really struggled. The Owls are 82nd in passing efficiency and 107th in the nation in passing offense, throwing for just over 150 yards per game. They’ve been using two quarterbacks – Chester Stewart, a running quarterback who started the first half of last year, and Mike Gerardi, a passing quarterback who started the second half of last year. Neither of them have been very good, but they have a good weapon in 6’5″ Deon Miller.

Maryland has really struggled against the pass this year, ranking 78th in pass efficiency defense and 110th in pass defense, giving up nearly 300 yards per game through the air. They’ve faced off against two very good quarterbacks in Stephen Morris and Geno Smith, but they failed both tests.

The Terps’ have been really bad against great passing offenses. Temple is not even an average passing offense. Advantage: Maryland.

Temple Rushing Offense vs. Maryland Rushing Defense:

Bernard Pierce is a legitimate star for Temple out of the backfield, running for around 150 yards and three touchdowns against both Akron and Villanova. Against Penn State, however, he was tamed, rushing for 50 yards on 17 carries. Matt Brown is another solid option for them, but their strength on offense has undoubtedly been in the running game.

Maryland has been average in the rushing defense, with a bad performance against Miami followed by a good one against West Virginia. They currently rank 61st in the nation in the category, allowing 132 yards per game on the ground. Joe Vellano, Andre Monroe and A.J. Francis anchor a very strong interior line, while Darin Drakeford is having an excellent year at weakside linebacker. Advantage: Temple.

So that’s a 2-1 advantage for Maryland. This could be a deciding game for both teams – Temple blew out two bad teams and played an average one close. Maryland beat a Miami team that had half their starters defended and needed three straight touchdowns to avoid a blowout against West Virginia. We have to say, this Temple team is a lot better than we thought. They have given up only eight points per game this season, and coupling that defense with a very strong running game is a dangerous thought.

However, we just can’t get past their ineffective passing game. That will be the difference in College Park tomorrow, as Maryland wins 20-10 in a snoozer.

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