Our Tome of a Penn State-Temple Preview; LIVE BLOG Tomorrow at Noon

Our Tome of a Penn State-Temple Preview; LIVE BLOG Tomorrow at Noon

We're now less than twenty-four hours away from the biggest college football game played in the city of Philadelphia in...well, let's just call it a long time.

Though the Nittany Lions are favored by a touchdown and an extra point, and the Owls haven't had a win in this series since before Joe Paterno became head coach, many believe that Saturday's game is the best opportunity Temple has had to up-end its in-state rival in decades.

Last year, the Owls proved more than competitive against Penn State, losing by a final score 22-13, but leading from more than half the contest. So, is 2011 the year Temple finally gets the monkey off its back? Our college football guys Kevin McGuire and Nick Menta detail tomorrow's matchup below.

But, before we get to that, we'd like to announce that, for the second year in a row, we'll be hosting a LIVE BLOG here on The700Level during the game. Nick and Kevin will be chatting from inside Lincoln Financial Field with other members of our staff popping in and out throughout the game. Watch the coverage on ESPN and join us to share your thoughts, ask your questions, or just to talk your smack. And now, on to the show...

On the Penn State Nittany Lions:
From a Penn State perspective, the key will be the quarterback play. Joe Paterno is opting to go with two guys once again, Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, and this could be the final test before a decision on a full-time signal caller is made. That means the pressure will be on to perform against what Joe Paterno has called the best Temple team he has ever seen.

The two quarterback candidates have failed to throw a touchdown pass this season, but consider that the running game dominated the week one game against Indiana State and the Alabama defense last week was a monster, it may not be all that surprising. regardless, the passing game will need to see better protection against a relentless Temple defensive front. The pass protection has been weak in the first two games and should have been a focus this week in practice. Temple will bring the pressure, so it will be interesting to see how Bolden and McGloin react. If the receivers can hold on to the ball this week, that would help out a lot as well.

The theme of the day though will remain the running game of both Penn State and Temple. Temple's Bernard Pierce gave the Nittany Lions some problems last season in State College, and if he had stayed in the game who knows how the game would have ended up? For Penn State, look for a strong showing by stud sophomore Silas Redd. He brings good speed, athleticism and field awareness to the offense and Redd should ease the pressure on the quarterbacks. —Kevin McGuire

On the Temple University Football Owls:
These two teams have more in common than any Penn State fan will feel comfortable admitting. Coming into 2011, neither head coach could decide on a starting quarterback and the success of their respective offenses is primarily driven by talented rushers both set to collapse by the end of the season as a result of exhaustion.

We'll start with the passing attack. Once redshirt-junior Mike Gerardi was named the starter against Villanova and the lead-signal caller for Week 2 against Akron, we presumed, perhaps incorrectly, that consecutive quality starts had secured him the job for the foreseeable future.

But senior QB Chester Stewart, whose preseason reps diminished over time possibly due to an anticipated suspension, has apparently re-entered the picture. From the Inquirer's Keith Pompey:

“I thought Chester [Stewart] played very well in that game against Akron last Saturday," said Temple coach Steve Addazio , who won’t name a clear-cut starter. “I think Chester is a guy that can be in that game, as could Chris Coyer."

"We will probably see Mike start the [Penn State] game. But we can see Chester play a fair amount."

At first read, this sounds like a direct contradiction of the comments made by Adazzio during the team's Media Day in late-August, when the first-year head coach insisted that he wouldn't run a two-quarterback offense, labeling the strategy "unproductive." Assuming he's still of that mindset—which he should be after the Penn State's struggles against Alabama last week—Addazio did mention the possibility of introducing a Wildcat/Spread package during the season. Both Stewart and true-freshman Clinton "Juice" Granger could prove highly effective in such a role.

As for the true leader of the Temple offense, junior rusher Bernard Pierce is tied with Pitt's Ray Graham for the most touchdowns in the nation with six. As Kevin mentioned above, when actually in last year's ballgame, Pierce carried Temple in the first half, making it seem as though the Owls were actually on the verge of upsetting the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. Unfortunately, a third-quarter ankle injury would relegate Bernard to the sideline. From there, Chester Stewart and Matt Brown struggled to move the ball and the tide turned. What would have happened if Pierce stayed healthy? Time will tell—we hope.

Bernard and the QBs aside, the performance of the Temple offensive line is going to prove critical. Pierce, though immensely talented, is going to need the guys in front of him to generate a sufficient push. Watch a lot of the Big 10? Then you know running the ball can be difficult against an entire conference predicated on strong linebacker and D-line play. In pass protection, Gerardi, Stewart, or whoever is under center is going to need some time to breathe.

Bottom line, Pierce needs to get off to a good start early, or Penn State may be able to drop into the same coverage schemes that so crippled Temple in the second half of last year's matchup. —Nick Menta

Miscellaneous Notes Heading into Tomorrow:
--Attendance
When these team's played in 2007, they set a record for the largest reported crowd to ever watch a Temple football game at Lincoln Financial Field. The final warm body count—69,092. On that day, a small, but dedicated group clad in Cherry packed about four sections worth of seats in
southeast corner of the lower bowl. The rest of the stadium resembled, and effectively became, a Penn State home game.

Will we see a more even split in fan participation tomorrow? This from Sam Donnellon:

"Temple officials insist it won't be [like last time], that at least 30,000 tickets have been sold through the school's aggressive ticket packaging, and about 12,000 student tickets have been sold as well."

Now does anyone actually believe we're going to see 42,000 Temple fans in attendance tomorrow? It could be the case, and I'm now remembering my own experience from 2007, that a fair number of the student tickets have been given away or sold off to friends making the trip from PSU (Correction: Reader "NickIsOutOFTouch" wrote in that Temple students are now required to present legitimate school ID to enter the games and use their student tickets, unlike in years past. Chalk this one up as Nick's early vote for comment handle of the year.)

And while Temple's hard marketing of its partial season ticket package—lower level seats to Penn State and two other home games for just $90—has drawn drawn 30,000 people, it remains to be see just how many of those tickets were bought by or ultimately sold to PSU fans on the secondary market.

Still, an even split would be an awesome sight. Here's to hoping the cynicism above is rendered unwarranted.

--Aesthetics
For the first time, the field at Lincoln Financial Field has been painted Cherry and White. The south end zone bears the letters T-E-M-P-L-E while the north end zone reads O-W-L-S. Though these same letters were spray-painted on the field in '07, they were done hastily and in no way covered the traditional end zone print of the building's main tenant. Frankly, it just looked bad. Fortunately for those who want an early look at the freshly painted turf, this image, screen capped from somebody's CSN television feed, popped up on the message boards of Owlscoop.com over night.

--Odds
As cited in the introduction, Bodog lists the Nittany Lions as a -7. Thanks to vegasinsider.com, we can see that literally every single book on their site has the Lions giving that same -7. The over/under vacillates between 45 1/2 and 46. For your reference, in neither of the last two playings have the teams exceeded more than 37 combined points.

--Breakfast
Anyone camping out over night? See you bright and early tomorrow morning. Coordinate your tailgates in the comments as you will.

Trash talking starts...now.

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.83 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there." (See story)

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.

Tonight's Lineup: Struggling Rupp back behind the plate for Phillies

Tonight's Lineup: Struggling Rupp back behind the plate for Phillies

After scoring five first-inning runs on their way to a 7-5 win against the Braves on Thursday, Pete Mackanin decided not to tinker with the Phillies' lineup too much.

In fact, the only change will be at catcher. The struggling Cameron Rupp will get the start on Friday and bat sixth after Carlos Ruiz was behind the plate on Thursday. Rupp, who was one of the few bright spots for the offense in the first half, is just 5 for 31 since the All-Star break. On the season, Rupp is still batting .271 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs.

Aaron Altherr came off the DL with a bang, tallying three hits, including a two-run homer on Thursday. Mackanin has said Altherr will get a long look in right field and Thursday night was a glimpse of why. 

With Altherr's regular presence in the lineup, Cody Asche has been put on notice. After going on a tear from early June to early July, Asche is batting .094 (5 for 53) in his last 17 games. With Altherr and Odubel Herrera entrenched in right and center, Asche will have to get hot to stave off prospect Nick Williams, who seems to be finding his groove at Lehigh Valley.

Here is tonight's lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Cody Asche, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Vince Velasquez, P

Temple football announces future series with Boston College and Duke

ap-mattrhule-temple-sideline.jpg
Associated Press

Temple football announces future series with Boston College and Duke

Temple football starts its training camp next week, but the Owls have made another splash in the future scheduling department. This time, the opponents come from the ACC.

The program announced Friday it has agreed to future series with Boston College (2018 at BC and 2021 in Philadelphia) and Duke (2022 in Cameron, North Carolina and 2023 in Philadelphia). Temple also announced a game with Bucknell in Philadelphia in 2019 announced dates for previously confirmed future matchups with Maryland and Rutgers and 2017's season opener at Notre Dame.

The Boston College series is intriguing because it will be the renewal of an annual series from when the programs used to meet every year in Big East conference play. The Eagles hold a 28-7-2 all-time advantage over the Owls. Temple's last win against Boston College came in 1999 when the Owls earned a 24-14 victory. Of course, the matchup will be even juicier if former Temple head coach Steve Addazio is still leading Boston College in two years. But with the way the program floundered to a 3-9 record, earned just one win against an FCS program and went winless in ACC play last season and doesn't have a bright outlook this season, don't hold your breath that Addazio will be there.

The Owls have never met the Dukies on the gridiron.

Temple's non-conference slate this season includes home dates against Army (Sept. 2), Stony Brook (Sept. 10) and Charlotte (Sept. 24) and a visit to in-state rival Penn State (Sept. 17).

Friday's announcements come on the heels of an announcement earlier this month that confirmed Temple will play a three-game set with national powerhouse Oklahoma. That series is set to start in 2024.

Below is a list of dates for Temple's future games against non-conference opponents:
2017 – at Notre Dame - Sept. 2, vs. Villanova - Sept. 9, vs. UMass  - Sept. 16, at Army - Oct. 21
2018 – vs. Villanova -  Sept. 1, vs. Buffalo - Sept. 8, at Maryland - Sept. 15, at Boston College - Sept. 29
2019 – vs. Bucknell - Aug. 31, vs. Maryland - Sept. 14, at Buffalo - Sept. 21), vs. Army - Oct. 26
2020 – vs. Idaho - Sept. 12, vs. Rutgers - Sept. 19
2021 – at Rutgers - Sept. 4, vs. Boston College - Sept. 18
2022 – at Duke - Sept. 3, vs. Rutgers - Sept. 17
2023 – at Rutgers - Sept. 9, vs. Duke - Sept. 16
2024 - at Oklahoma - Aug. 31
2025 - vs. Oklahoma - Sept. 13
2028 - at Oklahoma - Sept. 2