Unless you have been buried under a rock, you should know that Villanova beat Temple in thrilling fashion last season with Nick Yako kicking the game winning field goal as time expired. This years game shouldn't be anything other than a close game, especially since The Wildcats and The Owls return essentially the same teams from last year's showdown. Here are some storylines for the game:
Has Temple Found a Quarterback? Incumbent starter Chester Stewart has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes over his career and Temple doesn't have another quarterback on the roster with significant game experience. The most experienced person at quarterback other than Stewart is tight end Vaughn Charlton, who started at quarterback against Villanova last year and proceeded to throw what seemed to be dozens of picks. Last season, Villanova gave up 317 passing yards to Charlton, but Stewart's career high in passing yardage is 178.
What's The Deal With Bernard Pierce? Temple's "Heisman Candidate" running back Bernard Pierce barely played in the Villanova game last year because he had only recently been cleared to play by the NCAA. Recently it has emerged that Pierce has been demoted to second string at tailback. Whether this is disciplinary related, due to an injury (he did take a shot to the head and sat out a bunch of practice,) or simply a motivational tactic no one outside of the Temple program knows for sure, but Temple's starting tailback position is currently held by the diminutive Matt Brown.
Can Villanova Establish The Run? Last season's Temple game was the only game of the season where Villanova had no room to run as they were held to 64 net rushing yards on 36 attempts. One thing that must be noted however is that Matt Szczur had only three rushing attempts for five yards in that game. This represented Szczur's second lowest net rushing yardage performance of the season and tied for his least attempts all season. Temple was 18th in FBS last season in rushing defense, but they lose their primary run plugger from last season in mammoth nose tackle Andre Neblett.
Will Matt Szczur Get Involved? Last season against Temple, Brandyn Harvey was the breakout star of the game with nine catches for 142 yards while Matt Szczur had only 7 offensive touches in one of his worst offensive performances of the season. Since that day, Szczur has evolved from number two receiver and wildcat quarterback, to the primary weapon in Villanova's passing attack after the graduation of Harvey. I fully expect Villanova offensive coordinator Sam Venuto to line Szczur up in the wildcat early, even if he is only to serve as a decoy. I can guarantee you this: Matt Szczur will have AT LEAST ten touches this game if the score stays close.
How Will The New Look Villanova D-Line Hold Up? The most cliched phrase in all of football coachspeak is "it all starts up front." Unfortunately for the Villanova defense, this particular cliche actually has some weight behind it. Gone are last year's starters Tim Kukucka and Phil Matusz and in their place step Thomas Weaver and Tamai Young. Weaver and Young both contributed on defense as reserves last year and performed well (particularly Weaver.) I expect the Villanova defensive line to have a diminished role in rushing the passer and act more like 3-4 defensive linemen in occupying blockers so the talented linebackers (and safeties) behind them have the space to make plays both rushing the passer and run stopping. I do however expect defensive end Marlon Johnson to have a breakout season rushing the passer, something he wasn't able to do as a freshman last season.
That's all I have for right now.. In the time leading up to the game I expect to have much more. It's time to get excited for Villanova football!