September 1, 2012; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins running back Justus Pickett (44) runs for a second half touchdown against the William & Mary Tribe at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
Maryland snuck by FCS opponent William & Mary last week with a 7-6 victory, but face a much sterner test this Saturday on the road against Temple.
Last year's Maryland football season started out pretty well. They beat Miami to open the season, and after falling behind big to a high-powered West Virginia team, they clawed back to lose by only six. Week three was a home match against Temple - one most Maryland fans probably expected to win, especially given how the year began.
How wrong they were. The Owls came in to College Park and pounded the Terps 38-7, led by an incredible performance by Bernard Pierce (149 yards and five touchdowns on 32 carries) and a perfect day from Chester Stewart (9/9 for 140 yards). As a team, Temple ran for nearly 300 yards on the day, and Maryland was completely hopeless on defense.
With a much-improved defense, the Terps will be looking for revenge this Saturday in Philadelphia, and the fact that Pierce and Stewart are both gone will certainly help. That's not to say the Owls don't have offensive weapons, however, as they put up 41 points against Villanova last week.
Temple's strength is in the running game again this year, with Matt Brown as the feature back (19 rushes for 145 yards in the opener) and Kenny Harper (five rushes for 49 yards) and former Boston College standout Montel Harris (five rushes for 12 yards) providing some serious depth.
Quarterback Chris Coyer is a valuable weapon for the Owls, as well. With a record of 5-0 as a starter, Coyer is a big lefty who can run and throw. Against Villanova, he passed for one touchdown and ran for another, recording 80 yards on 13 carries.
The losses from last season are apparent on both sides of the ball - Temple only returns nine total starters (four on offense, five on defense). Among those gone on the defensive side of the ball are defensive end Adrian Robinson, linebacker Tahir Whitehead, and linebacker Stephen Johnson.
Temple's defense only gave up ten points against Villanova, but they also allowed over 350 yards of total offense, including 212 yards on the ground. The Owls did force an interception and a fumble (recovered by the Wildcats), and got seven solo tackles from Nate D. Smith.
Justus Pickett was named the Terps' starting running back after his impressive performance against William & Mary last week, and he should expect to see the ball quite a bit - as should true freshmen backups Albert Reid and Wes Brown. Quarterback Perry Hills was decidedly all right in his collegiate debut (despite throwing three interceptions), but will have to hold on to the ball if Maryland has any chance against the Owls.
It will be interesting to see if Maryland gets Stefon Diggs more involved in the game. Randy Edsall said their goal for last week's game against William & Mary was ten touches for the star freshman, and Diggs only received eight - including three on punt returns. Now, against a team that could be considered markedly better than the Terps, we'll see if Diggs starts to get the ball a whole lot more.
Maryland does get a boost on the defensive side of things, an added bonus to a unit that did extremely well last week. Defensive ends Keith Bowers and Isaiah Ross will both be back from injury, meaning the Terps don't have to start three defensive tackles on the line. Expect A.J. Francis to move back to nose tackle and Bowers to start at end, even though Darius Kilgo had a great game last week.
That help on the line will be needed against the Owls' ground game, and that should be the key matchup for Maryland on Saturday. With the quadruple threat of Brown, Harper, Harris and Coyer, the Terps are going to have to be on their A-game to stop Temple's potent attack.
Prediction: Temple 23, Maryland 6. The Terps give up a touchdown apiece to Brown and Coyer, and turnovers lead to three Owl field goals.