The next game is always the most important. As tired as the cliché is, it appears to be true for the Penn State football team.
We know that this game is always one that Temple circles on its calendar. However, if Penn State wants to have a shot at a winning season, this game had better be one that it is focused on as well.
The Nittany Lions (1-2), after two difficult losses to start the season, are coming off a dominating win over Navy. They will find out Saturday against the Owls if indeed they have righted the ship.
The Owls enter the contest 1-1 with a win over Villanova and a loss to Maryland in the first two weeks. They also had an extra week to prepare for Penn State after having last week off.
Temple gave Penn State all they could handle last year in Philadelphia and it would be surprising if this game was anything but a tight one.
The Owls did not look good early against a poor Maryland team and their second-half rally came up short. There’s little question they will be ready from the opening kickoff this week.
Temple coach Steve Addazio talked earlier in the week about the importance of this game to the Owls’ players and to the program.
“I think what happens is obviously our roster is filled with a majority of Pennsylvania players,” Addazio said. “And Penn State was Penn State, so every guy on our roster didn’t get recruited by Penn State. So they come in here, and you know, [playing Penn State} is a measuring stick.”
Expect a big effort from Temple.
With the Big Ten schedule looming ahead, Penn State can ill afford a loss this week. If a winning season is in the cards, it would seem a win against Temple is critical.
The Lions certainly looked better against Navy – but, then again, it was a poor Navy team.
Despite a 29-game winning streak against Temple, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien expects tough game.
“At no point in time do I ever address winning streaks,” O’Brien said. “That has nothing to do with this game. Every year is different. I don’t know what they were like in 1940, but win 2012 this is an excellent Temple team with a bunch of good players. This is a good football team. These guys had, what, five or six guys off last year’s team get drafted. Looks like they have a bunch of draft picks on this team right now.
“So I don’t know about the series or win streaks or anything. All I know is that it is going to be a very, very tough football game on Saturday.”
Temple desperately wants a win over Penn State and Penn State desperately needs a win to keep its hopes of a good season alive.
That kind of desperation, combined with rosters that aren’t that far apart in talent, generally leads to good games.
It would be surprising if either team scored a ton of points. I do, however, look for the Nittany Lions to get a few more and even their record at 2-2 heading into the Big 10 opener at Illinois.
Prediction: Penn State 17, Temple 14.
Marty Valania covers football for nittanylionsden.com. Follow him @EastRecruiting on Twitter.