Tonight at 7pm, UMass takes on the Temple Owls in Philadelphia. I caught up with Underdog Dynasty’s ace Temple writer, Joe Serpico, who answered some questions so UMass fans know what they’re up against tonight at Lincoln Financial Field.
This is the first year for the Owls under Geoff Collins. How have the early returns been with him as head coach, and how have players adjusted to his schemes?
The players love Collins, but that was expected when he took the job because he's always been a player's coach. He brings excitement to the program with his use of social media, the introduction of the S.W.A.G. Coordinator and his overall love for the game. On the field, it's still remains to be seen what he has to offer. We knew the defense would thrive with him at coach. We are still waiting to see what is their offensive identity.
Temple had quite the test in last week’s Mayor’s Cup game against Villanova, eeking out a 16-13 win. How will the team respond the week after such a close call with an FCS opponent?
Villanova is a FCS team, but they are no slouch. They would give a lot of FBS teams a good run. This is the Owls last chance to make a statement before they kick off conference play next week. I expect offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude to come up with a game plan to finally get the offense finally in a rhythm.
The rushing game has struggled mightily this year and is yet to average more than three yards per carry in a game. However, UMass has had a very weak run defense so far this year. Who wins out in a battle of weaknesses?
That rhythm I was just talking about is getting the ground game going. We knew entering the season that the quarterback play could be shaky with a new man under center. It's been rather shocking that All-AAC running back Ryquell Armstead has yet to get going, but this is the game he busts out. You mentioned UMass' weak run D and the Owls offense must establish the rushing attack early and often. It's a matchup they should win, but if not, it could be a long day for Patenaude and Logan Marchi.
Does Temple have any X-factors on offense who could break out for a big game against the Minutemen?
Honestly, the answer to this is Armstead as he was supposed to drive this offense, but since we already spoke out him, the receiving corps is ready to break out as well. Temple has some physically imposing wide outs - Kieth Kirkwood, Ventell Bryant and Adonis Jennings are all 6-foot-3, and Isiah Wright is 6-foot-2 - that create matchup problems for smaller corners. They aren't just physical receivers either as Jennings and Wright bring great speed to the position as well.
What aspect of Temple should UMass fans’ worry about most?
The Owls calling card is still their defense, and it's led by their secondary. They're coming off a rather disappointing effort against 'Nova and UMass might pay the price for their poor outing. Delvon Randall and Sean Chandler are hard-hitting safeties that lead the team in tackles and will be all over the field. Temple might have their entire defensive backfield find homes in the NFL next season with duo paired with Artrel Foster and Mike Jones at corner.
Temple’s defense gave up 46 points against Notre Dame, but only 13 against Villanova. Which version of the Owls’ defense do you think we’ll see on Saturday?
I think we can both agree that Temple's first two opponents were drastically different teams. Notre Dame is a team ranked just outside the top 25. Villanova is a ranked team from the FCS, but the talent level between the two programs is a huge difference. The Owls battled with the Irish for much of the first game before things got lopsided in the third quarter. Last week could have been a case where they played down to their competition. Anticipate the Owls' defense to be somewhere in the middle of that, which should be good enough to limit what Andrew Ford and company do on offense.
Do you think having homefield advantage will help the Owls at all?
While it is always nice to play at home, I wouldn't say Temple has a true homefield advantage. One of the biggest discussions at Temple is whether to build an on-campus stadium. The Owls are currently using Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, as their home field, but it's never full unless Penn State is in Philadelphia. Over 35,000 were at the game last week, but that had more to do with Villanova also hailing from Philly and bringing a crowd with them as well. The Cherry Crusade will be in attendance, but UMass isn't entering an atmosphere with the same allure as Tennessee, where the Minutemen travel next week.
What’s your score prediction?
This is the Owls last chance to get something going before they enter AAC play. UMass is a team in between ND and Nova and should be a good barometer of how Temple will play the rest of the season. As I said previously, this is the game where Patenaude finally establishes the running game. I don't think Temple will cover the 14-point spread, but will get the victory.
UMass 20 - Temple 27