Temple (3-3) at Pittsburgh (3-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Heinz Field (73,208) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: Big East Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Temple 2-2, Pitt 2-2. Away Record: Temple 1-1, Pitt 1-2. Neutral Record: Temple 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Conference Record: Temple 2-1, Pitt 0-3. Series Record: Pitt leads, 26-8-1.
GAME NOTES: A instate rivalry will be renewed on Saturday when the Temple Owls travel across the Keystone State to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers in Big East play at Heinz Field.
Temple shocked No. 18 Rutgers in the first half of their matchup last Saturday. However after leading 10-0 at the break, the Owls crumbled and gave up 35 unanswered points in the second half to fall 35-10. The loss ended a two-game winning streak for the surprising Owls who are 2-1 in conference play in their first season in the Big East since 2004.
On the other side Pittsburgh put an end to a two-game losing streak, although in non-conference play, with a 20-6 win over Buffalo last weekend. The win should instill some confidence in the Panthers, who are 0-3 in their conference schedule. From here things get even more difficult for Pittsburgh which plays three of its final four games on the road with the only home game against Rutgers.
These squads met annually from 1974-2004 but have not faced each other since Temple left the Big East. The Panthers had won six consecutive games against Temple before the hiatus and have gone 26-8-1 against the Owls overall. Temple did make it close in the last five meetings with three of those being decided by less than 10 points.
Even though Temple has managed to keep itself at .500 thus far, the Owls have struggled on offense. The Owls are last in the Big East in total yards per game (289.5) and second to last in scoring offense (24.2 ppg). That biggest weakness is in passing the ball. Temple is the fifth worst team in the nation in passing, averaging only 122.3 yards per game.
Part of the lack of production is that Temple's offense is reliant on the run. Thus far, the Owls have 256 rushing attempts to only 188 pass attempts. In recent weeks that rushing attack has gotten a boost from former All-ACC running back Montel Harris, who has returned to form. Harris had only 35 yards in the first three weeks but has since managed to rush for more than 130 yards twice en route to a team-high 391 yards rushing. Harris' success has meant a reduction in Matt Brown's use, as he does not have a rushing attempt in the last two games.
Quarterback Chris Coyer has also been an integral part of the running game with at least 11 carries in every game this season on his way to 332 total yards rushing. Coyer's ability to run has thus far been much better than his skill in passing. Coyer has completed only 53.0 percent of his passes, for 727 yards and seven touchdowns. He has yet to throw for more than 200 yards this season and has twice been held to fewer than 70 yards passing, including a 65- yard effort against Rutgers.
Temple's defense also leaves a lot to be desired, as the Owls are second worst in both total yards (387.7 ypg) and scoring defense (24.5 ppg) in the Big East. Temple does not create enough negative plays as it is tied with Louisville for last in the Big East with 34 tackles for loss. Temple has largely been able to overcome such struggles with the Big East's second best turnover margin (+5).
Nate D. Smith (48 tackles) and Tyler Matakevich (46) are the team's tackles leader though the two have only 6.5 combined tackles for loss. There is no dominant pass rusher on the squad either with Marcus Green, John Youboty and Sean Daniels all tied for a team-high with two sacks.
Unlike Temple, Pittsburgh has had no such issue in the passing game with the Panthers ranked second in the Big East (275.9 ypg). Quarterback Tino Sunseri has been the driving force behind the aerial assault. Sunseri has throw for 1,878 yards this season, while completing 68.9 percent of his passes. Both of those marks are second in the conference. Also impressive about Sunseri's play is his ability to limit turnovers with only two interceptions to 10 touchdown passes.
It is not just Sunseri that has lifted the passing offense as Pittsburgh benefits from the Big East's most prolific receiving duo in Mike Shanahan and Devin Street. The pair are ranked first and second in yards per game with Shanahan averaging 80.6 and Street at 79.3. Shanahan has 564 yards and 31 receptions, while Street has 555 yards.
With the passing game so effective the rushing attack has taken a backseat. Still the Panthers have one of the best backs in the conference in Ray Graham (513 yards, five TDs) and a very capable backup in Rushel Shell (362 yards, three TDs).
On defense Pittsburgh has done a decent job in not allowing teams to erupt for large amounts of yards or points, but the Panthers have struggled to get stops at crucial points. The Panthers are second to last in the Big East on stopping opponents on third down (45.0 percent) and third worst in holding up in the red zone (83.3 percent). Overall Pittsburgh is surrendering 342.1 yards of total offense and 22.4 points per game.
Jason Hendricks has been one of the better defensive players in the conference this season for Pittsburgh. Not only does he lead the team with 48 tackles but he has also collected four interceptions and six passes defended. Aaron Donald (seven tackles for loss, two sacks) is the team's best pass rusher, while Shane Gordon (33 tackles, five tackles for loss) has played well at linebacker.
What has been most surprising about Temple's relative success this season is how the Owls have accomplished it with such glaring weaknesses on both sides of the ball. Pittsburgh has been just the opposite and in this game Sunseri and company will be more than capable of out-gunning their instate foe.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 28, Temple 17
10/24 10:36:30 ET