We've been counting down the days for far too long, and now we can finally think in hours. Penn State football is so close, I can almost taste the overcooked tailgate burgers. Penn State kicks off the season in Philadelphia against Temple at the Linc, which is fitting, since Christian Hackenberg played quarterback under Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly back when the two were at Oregon. Anyway, as is tradition 'round these parts, we got the staff together for score predictions. Everyone felt pretty confident in a Penn State victory by varying degrees, but the two most frightened by the talons of the Owls were Devon (wonderfully pesimisstic as always) and my Xbox 360. Oh, right, about that.
As a new feature this year, I'm going to use NCAA Football 14 with updated rosters for the 2015-16 season to predict games. I made a few minor tweaks to the roster, like upping Anthony Zettel to a 91, making Koa Farmer a safety again, and adding -White to Nyeem's last name, but it's basically the base set one (Ed. note - Noel has a lot of free time on his hands). Since I write the depth chart post each week anyway, I'll update each team with game-accurate depth charts, locations, and weather in order to try and predict the score. It'll be fun until we lose 56-0 to Ohio State in the game, which happens every time anyone except Alabama plays them in this game.
NCAA Football 14:
Overall Rating: Penn State 90, Temple 79
Offense: Penn State 90, Temple 77
Defense: Penn State 88, Temple 82
Penn State won the opening toss and elected to receive, and struggled from that moment on. Temple took control early with a two touchdowns and two field goals in the half, while Christian Hackenberg was under serious pressure from the Owls defense (he would be sacked four times in all) and The Pillsbury Toeboy was an unfortunate 0-2 on field goals inside 40 yards. Thankfully, a 15-yard bubble screen(!) to Saeed Blacknall in the red zone cut the Owl lead to two possessions at halftime.
Temple kept the moment with a pair of field goals and two straight three-and-outs forced before Hackenberg went all Joe Montana. Touchdowns to Chris Godwin and Blacknall again on offense, paired with a pick by Grant Haley and a forced fumble courtesy Anthony Zettel made it 26-22 and Penn State ball with 45 seconds to play. Two plays later, DaeSean Hamilton reeled in a 31-yard pass and Akeel Lynch pounded home the two-point conversion. Jordan Lucas didn't get caught between the poop and the fart in intercepting the hail mary heave at the end of the game, and Penn State left Philly shaken but victorious.
Penn State 29-26
Dan: These are two good defenses, but Penn State's is better. These are also two questionable offenses, but Penn State's is better. I think Penn State leaves some points on the board due to a rocky out-of-the-gate performance by Joey Julius and struggles with field position at times due to Daniel Pasquariello, and the offense will have its ups-and-downs. But I think the defense dominates Temple's offense and keeps them out of field goal range until late, when they'll be needing to go for it on fourth down anyway.
Penn State 17-0
Nick: This game, for me, is the scariest non-Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan game on the schedule. That being said, this should still be a game that Penn State can walk away from with a comfortable enough victory. It might take a few series for the offense to get going in the first game of the season, but I expect see Donovan and Franklin try to get as many of their weapons involved as possible. The defense should be as stout as ever, and Temple's offense will only be able to muster a couple of scores. In terms of stats, I see Hackenberg throwing for 275 yards, Godwin and Hamilton picking up 70+ receiving yards each, and Lynch running for 85 on the ground. I also see an interception for true freshman John Reid. And you know what? Koa Farmer's going to run one back, and demolish four defenders in his path. Go State.
Penn State 24-10
bscaff: Enough, already. It's time to clear some things up. First, Temple's defense is not good. Their safeties get fooled by any kind of misdirection, take horrible angles, and don't tackle particularly well. Their defensive ends are linebacker size. They don't have any play-makers inside at defensive tackle. They merely survive on your unforced errors, or not at all. They are not the '85 Bears. Second, Temple's offense is not good. Their O-line won't win any games. They boast zero speed at the skill positions, zero size, and merely score on your unforced errors, or not at all. They are not...whatever NFL Team scored a bunch of points and won a Super Bowl one time. They're PJ Walker running for his life, chucking the pill, and hoping maybe someone on his team comes down with it. All of this "close one" talk is a bunch of horseshit. Just roll the odd-shaped ball out there, blow a whistle, and then we can punch these guys in the face, and enjoy our Saturday.
Penn State 27-3
Devon: Penn State starts way too slow, with the defense clearly feeling the losses of Mike Hull and its starting defensive ends and the offensive line showing some 2014 flashbacks. At half, the Lions trail to a resurgent Temple team, and Christian Hackenberg hasn't taken the giant leap forward we might have expected. But things start to gel after the break--Bob Shoop makes the adjustments to completely shut down a mediocre Owl offense, and aided by a couple forced turnovers, Penn State cashes in on some short-field scoring opportunities. Joey Julius misses a field goal that would've put it away, but Temple can't drive for the win in the final minute. On the positive side, Akeel Lynch builds off his beast-mode performance in the Pinstripe Bowl, silencing the calls to see more Saquon Barkley; and Marcus Allen straight-up kills some dude with a big hit.
Penn State 24-20
Eli: Here are a series of true statements: Temple returns almost all 22 starters from last season. Temple's defense is not that bad. Temple kept the game pretty close for three quarters last season. Temple stands to benefit from the continuity in both the coaching staff and all the guys they return. Temple has had all off-season to prepare for Penn State. Unfortunately for Temple, all of this also applies to Penn State.
Penn State 56-17
Matt: Very rarely is the anticipation that builds up over a long off-season for the opening game of the season met with a worthy performance. Heck, even that 2005 team plodded to a pedestrian 23-13 win over South Florida. Do not get me wrong, this one will not be nearly as close as my predicted score would lead you to believe. It just won't be one you tell your grandkids about someday. Despite all of the "this could be the year Temple beats PSU" talk we're subjected to every time we are forced to play the Owls, they're still Temple. Penn State is bigger, stronger, faster, and flat out better than them at every spot on the field. And that matters. Zettel and Johnson will have a field day against a vastly undersized line, and PSU's stable of running backs and receivers will make enough plays to win comfortably.
Penn State 21-6
Tim: Fun fact: since 1995, PSU and Temple have squared off against each other 12 times. Only twice have the Owls scored more than one touchdown. In those games where Temple scored more than one touchdown, they managed a whopping 14 points (in 1995) and 13 points (in 2010). Don't expect this stat to change this year, especially against a defense like the one PSU brings to the table. Temple gets its one touchdown early on off a short field created by a turnover but the PSU offense eventually gets rolling as Hack hits his receiving targets in stride and Akeel Lynch/Mark Allen/Saquon Barkley/Nick Scott/Your Created Self From NCAA 14 run around and over the vaunted Temple defense (which while tops in the AAC, is probably middle of the pack at best in the B1G). Joey Julius could very well have a shaky debut at kicker but I see him nailing not one, but TWO field goals and I'm also calling on another pick-six from the defense. Enjoy the first weekend of college football, everyone!
Penn State 34-13
Chad: Temple is not a bad team and I'd even go so far as to say they're a good team. At least they are defensively, which is why I'm expecting a wacky scoreline and at least one defensive touchdown. PSU's O-line will struggle again, but that won't stop Hack from making some timely plays down the stretch because he doesn't have full-on post-traumatic sack disorder yet. With Juan Fernandez as my witness, the most crushing rivalry defeats are the close defeats. Maybe next year, Temple. F*ck you still, Juan.
Penn State 20-16
Adam: Penn State 24-14
Bill: Penn State 17-10
Cari: Penn State 28-14
Jared: Penn State 24-13