Part One of Our Two-Part Temple-Penn State Primer: On Penn State

Part One of Our Two-Part Temple-Penn State Primer: On Penn State

In advance of this weekend's showdown in Happy Valley between Temple and Penn State (3:30 p.n. on ABC/ESPN 2), Nick Menta and our friend and guest-spotter from Examiner.com Kevin McGuire have gotten together for a two-part preview of this weekend's matchup.

In Part 1, Nick picks Kevin's brain about the current state of the Nittany Lions. They'll reverse roles in Part 2. And for yet more, check out Nick's full game preview here.

On with the show...

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Nick: Alright, let's get the injury report out the way up front. How are the banged up running backs?

Kevin McGuire: It looks as though Bill Belton’s status is still not good, as he was
not seen in practice late this week while media were allowed to watch
(could be a decoy, who knows), but Derek Day was in full pads and
O’Brien suggested he is ahead of Belton right now.

Last week Penn State
relied on Michaekl Zordich to pound the football, and he is comfortable
doing so when asked. Don’t expect to see true freshman Akeel Lynch
unless absolutely necessary. O’Brien is trying to keep freshman from
playing as much as possible in some spots to preserve their eligibility
moving forward.

This is one of those inevitable "what really was it?" questions. Was Penn State's thrashing of Navy a product of the team settling in and finding itself, or of Navy being sort of horrendous by comparison. (No wimping out and picking both! Okay, you can if you want.)

It had to be a little from Column A and a little from Column B to be honest, but I think there are signs that Penn State is continuing to improve in some aspects in the early going under O’Brien.

The defense has forced eight turnovers in the past two games and that doesn't happen by accident. The defense has played better week-to-week after three games.

The offense seems to have found at least one player to take over a key role with sophomore Allen Robinson at wide receiver. The offense in general is still finding itself, but Matt McGloin has shown some good things early on with his decision-making, for the most part. As a team I think there are some positive trends unfolding for Penn State on both sides of the football that suggest they could be OK this season.

Speaking of McGloin, his progression isn't staggering, but it's certainly
substantial. Is it because it's O'Brien, because it's not Paterno,or because he doesn't have Bolden over his shoulder any longer? Which of those
three is most responsible for his improvement?

There is no question in my mind that McGloin has benefited from new
coaching, and he has made some subtle and not so subtle comments
supporting that idea. But, as you pointed out, I think the fact that
McGloin was named the starter early by O’Brien has the biggest impact on
everything.

Last season the switching back-and-forth of quarterbacks prevented Penn
State from finding their offensive identity and establishing any sort of
rhythm. We know that McGloin is not the most talented or skilled
quarterback, but right now at Penn State he has been the best available
option. Now McGloin gets to take all of the first team snaps and feel
more comfortable leading the offense.

What do you make of the number of attempts to go for it on fourth down? Specifically, O'Brien's decision not use Ficken for a chip shot last week and coming away with no points right after the kid has missed an extra point. The right move? Too aggressive? Is he unconcerned with Ficken's psyche?

I thought O’Brien should have gone for what should have been an easy field goal just to give Sam Ficken a chance to boost his confidence and let him know that he will be trusted. I felt kicking a chip-shot field goal (or at least not hesitating to attempt it) would have done Ficken some good as a young player who felt awful about the way the previous week had gone.

That said, I’m not Bill O’Brien.

It’s a new way of thinking when it comes to Penn State’s offense, and that means taking more risks and gambling on fourth down a lot more than usual. Penn State has already converted six fourth down attempts for a first down this season, compared to ten all of last season. This may be the way it is going to be under O’Brien but there may be something else to consider here. What does Penn State ultimately have to lose by going for it on fourth down rather than kicking field goals? We all know Penn State has no postseason to play for, so there is nothing to lose by playing with an extra risk.

Do you get the sense that as this season goes on, key guys in that locker room will grow committed enough not to leave the program, or is Penn State treading water until the next transfer period?

There is no question that the biggest challenge Bill O’Brien has this season is keeping this team together, and establishing and maintaining team chemistry is a huge part of that. The ability for this program to stay afloat, metaphorically speaking, will rely heavily on O’Brien keeping players on the roster now from transferring elsewhere after the season at a time when he will also need to focus on recruiting for the Class of 2013.

What's the most key matchup in this weekend's game that Penn State needs to get the better of to win?

Penn State’s biggest weak point this season has been third down defense. Penn State ranks 115th in the nation in third down conversions allowed, giving up first downs 50.98 percent of the time (Temple is getting off the field 60 percent of the time by comparison). If the Owls can get in to some manageable third down situations, with the running game they should have to rely on the odds could be very good that Temple continues to crack Penn State’s third-down defense.

And since I anticipate this being a tight game, that could become a huge factor as the game unfolds.

Click here for Part 2: On the Temple Owls and keep up with Kevin and Nick's weekend reports from State College on
Twitter @KevinOnCFB and @cnmenta.

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Temple's Trey Lowe to redshirt as recovery from car accident continues

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Temple's Trey Lowe to redshirt as recovery from car accident continues

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy had a feeling some bad news would come regarding guard Trey Lowe's status for the coming season. On Friday, it was made official.

Lowe, a freshman who suffered serious upper-body injuries in a single-car crash in his native New Jersey last February, will miss all of the 2016-17 season and take a medical redshirt as he continues to recover, Dunphy announced on Friday.

"We all feel that this is in the best interest for Trey, as a person, a basketball player and a student," Dunphy said in a statement released by the university. "We feel at this time that concentrating on his rehabilitation this year will give him the best chance to come back strong and healthy for 2017-18. Trey will still be a big part of the team during this redshirt year, while continuing to work with our medical and strength team in preparation for his full return to action.”

Lowe was just starting to come into his own at the collegiate level around the time of the unfortunate accident. In a Feb. 17 game at the Liacouras Center against then-No.1 and eventual national champion Villanova, Lowe dropped a career-high 21 points. Though the Owls lost, 83-67, Lowe had made an impact and earned the trust of Dunphy, which isn't easy to do as a freshman.

A three-star recruit, Lowe played in all 28 games, including five starts, prior to his injury and averaged 4.8 points and 1.8 assists in 12.3 minutes per game. He would be a redshirt sophomore if he's ready to return for the 2017-18 season.

The absence of Lowe will leave the Owls particularly thin at guard this year. You may recall senior point guard Josh Brown, who was to be counted on as the Owls' leader this season, tore his Achilles tendon during an offseason workout. His status for this season is still unknown as he continues to rehab from his injury.

Junior forward Obi Enechionyia, who averaged 11 points per game last season, is Temple's leading returning scorer.

The onus to produce at guard will be placed on redshirt senior Daniel Dingle and sophomore Shizz Alston, Jr. True freshmen Quinton Rose and Alani Moore will also likely have to chip in.

They have just over a month to get ready. Temple hosts La Salle in both schools' season opener on Friday, Nov. 11 at the Liacouras Center.

Sixers' Ben Simmons suffers fractured bone in right foot

Sixers' Ben Simmons suffers fractured bone in right foot

As the Sixers get two bigs back from injury, another goes down.

First overall pick Ben Simmons suffered a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone of his right foot on Friday. Simmons rolled his right ankle during the team’s final training camp scrimmage at Stockton University.

Simmons underwent an X-ray and MRI on his right foot and ankle. Sixers head physician Dr. Christopher Dodson and Sixers chief medical officer and co-chief of sports medicine orthopedics at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center Dr. Jonathan Glashow reviewed the images.

Simmons’ timetable to return is to be determined. The Sixers are considering further medical evaluation and treatment options. 

Landing the number one pick and selecting Simmons was the highlight of the Sixers’ next chapter. They were supposed to be healthy this time around as they entered a new phase following a 10-72 season. 

The news of the fracture adds to years of injury-related setbacks. Nerlens Noel missed his entire rookie season rehabbing from an ACL injury. After undergoing two foot injuries in as many years, the 2014 third overall pick Joel Embiid is slated to make his NBA debut Oct. 4 against the Celtics in preseason action. Jahlil Okafor is also expected to play next Tuesday for the first time since his season-ending knee surgery in March. 

The Sixers drafted Simmons to become a focal point of their system. At 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, he is a point-forward with the potential to change the look of a lineup. During training camp Brown experimented with multiple combinations, including playing Simmons at the point, shooting guard and small forward. 

Brown called the two-three combination of Simmons and Dario Saric “6-10, do-alls” (see story)

Simmons, 20, impressed his teammates during camp. In just four days of practices, it was easy for them to see how Simmons would improve the Sixers. 

“He’s really physical,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s just a big presence. When he pushes the ball, you can feel it. He makes you want to go with him. … He’s so fast and he’s so big.” 

Said Nerlens Noel, “He just plays basketball the right way. When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."

The Sixers will be faced with filling a role they haven’t actually had yet. They had gameplans of how to utilize Simmons, but they were implemented only in training camp. The Sixers have a frontcourt logjam which will allow them to plug in other players at the power forward spot. They also can fill his experimented role on the wings with traditional shooters. But his absence will eliminate versatile lineups in which players are essentially “positionless,” a Warriors-style of play that causes mismatches of size and skills. 

Even though the Sixers have an abundance of bigs, Embiid and Okafor will be monitored for minutes at the start of the season. Throw in Simmons’ injury and this creates opportunities for other frontcourt players such as Richaun Holmes and Elton Brand. With Simmons absence, there also could be more minutes for Saric to play his natural position at power forward. 

Simmons wasn’t letting himself get too far ahead as he entered his first NBA season. He has been taking each day one at a time with an excitement of the newness of his rookie year.

“I think it’s still surreal for me,” Simmons said on Media Day. “I think it’ll finally hit me once I step on the court matched up against OKC the first game.”

Now it remains to be seen when Simmons will play his first game.