When the City of Brotherly Love does battle with the Steel City, more than Pennsylvania bragging rights will be at stake. With both teams sitting at three victories on the year, the push to get six wins and become bowl-eligible begins now. Here are my five things to watch out for during this afternoon’s showdown.
1. Where is Matt Brown?
The departure of Bernard Pierce was supposed to be the senior running back’s calling card and he was primed for a break-out year. But with injuries and the emergence of Montel Harris as the feature back, Brown has barely touched the field in the last three games, being relegated to return duties. If he can return kicks, he can run the ball, so where is he? After posting 145 yards rushing against Villanova in the season opener, he has a total of 116 yards rushing in the five games since. The season is almost half gone, and if he doesn’t emerge soon, it would be a disappointing ending to his Temple career.
2. Big East Conference supremacy
Don’t match up the Owls’2-1 conference record with the Panthers’ 0-3 mark in Big East play. The Owls have gotten two wins in a conference everyone picked them to finish last in, but they have done so against the two teams that actually are last in the conference. South Florida and Connecticut’s conference record is 0-6, and they have been all but eliminated from postseason contention. Pittsburgh’s three losses in conference have been at the hands of Cincinnati, Syracuse and Louisville, who share a 6-2 combined conference record. Pittsburgh still topped Temple in the ESPN Big East Power Rankings, and this game should be a test of where Temple actually sits in the conference.
3. Offensive scheme
Pittsburgh features a professional-style offense complete with a senior quarterback. Unlike the Owls, the Panthers rely on a pocket passer with a core group of receivers and a duo of talented running backs. The Owls’ second leading rusher is their quarterback, and they have one receiver over 100 yards on the season, sophomore Jalen Fitzpatrick, with 286. How they match up with Pittsburgh who has two receivers over 500 yards will be interesting. For a team to have as many yards as Pittsburgh does and be unable to get into the end zone is costly, but they have shown that they can move the chains and keep Coyer and company off the field.
4. Coyer’s response
The junior quarterback has looked unflappable at times, and completely confused at others. He led a comeback drive against Connecticut, but against Rutgers he was pulled in favor of Clinton Granger, Addazio’s first quarterback change of the year. While Addazio said the quarterback contest is always open, I have to believe he is sticking with his guy. While Granger did nothing against Rutgers to prove he deserved a starting spot, being on the sideline for the first time all season could have an effect on Coyer. How he responds in this game would say a lot about his character.
5. Defense struggling
With a group of returning senior leaders, the defense looked like it would outperform the offense this season. While freshman Nate D. Smith and Tyler Matakevich have turned in stellar first-year performances and lead the team in tackles, the rest of the defense has been porous at best. Senior defensive back Justin Gildea has been beat in coverage several times, junior defensive tackle Levi Brown has been invisible with 12 tackles in six games and the defense constantly blows assignments. If they want to give the offense any chance, they need to step their game up.