As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each Wednesday over the summer. This week, we preview Syracuse’s matchup against Temple on Nov. 23 in Philadelphia, Pa.
ALLOW ME TO REINTRODUCE MYSELF: The Owls are coming off a three-year stretch that many in the national media are calling miraculous. Posting a 26-10 record, two bowl appearances and their first bowl victory since 1979, Temple is a drastically different program than the team many Syracuse fans will remember getting thrown out of the Big East. Just about every Big East preview has coach Steve Addazio’s squad finishing last, mostly because the team is returning only eight starters, with only two offensive lineman who have ever started a game. I think that’s short sighted, because of the overlooked offense. The biggest challenge for these Owls will be answering the bell week in and week out, there are no games with Akron on the Big East schedule, but I think they are up to the challenge and anticipate a 6-5 record.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: Montel Harris is the guy who’s gotten all of the ink, and rightly so. He’s transferred in for his senior season from Boston College, bringing that school’s all-time rushing lead and holding the most rushing yards of any active FBS player. The big question around North Philly was how the Owls would replace Bernard Pierce, who went in the third round to the Ravens. Montel should fill those big shoes nicely.
I like to call Chris Coyer “TU-bow,” because he’s a run-first QB running the offense Steve Addazio devised for Tim Tebow at Florida. He’s never going to challenge for the Jets starting job, but he can run the ball hard (569 yards on 68 carries) and is efficient when he needs to throw (led MAC with 177.4 passer rating).
Brandon McManus is just a kicker/punter, but if the Owls are going to get bowl eligible, he’s going to play a huge part. He made the field long for Temple’s third-ranked (nationally!) defense, by averaging 46 yards a punt, and made 16-of-22 field goals. Temple is going to run the ball, and shorten the game, and McManus’s control of the field position game will dictate their success.
PREDICTION: If the Orange give Ryan Nassib more running opportunities, as the advance reports indicate, expect him to have success against a young Owls defense. Temple has struggled over the past three seasons with athletic QBs who are a run/pass threat. However, I think by the time this game is played in late November, Montel Harris will be fully integrated into the Bernard Pierce role, and I’m counting this as one of Temple’s six wins. 24-23 Temple.
Andy Cliver double majored in Temple (undergrad and law school) and currently practices law in Philadelphia. Look for him in parking lot section K4 tailgating before every home Temple game.