Eric Purdy takes a look at the Aug. 28 matchup; Temple at Vanderbilt.
Temple Owls Linebacker Haason Reddick (33) sacks Memphis Tigers quarterback Jacob Karam (9) during the second half at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The Owls ended the 2013 on a high note beating Memphis 41-21.
(C+P) — Temple has some reasons to be optimistic heading into the 2014 season, as it welcomes back 13 starters from a squad that led 85 percent of the time in its final six games last year. Just to put that number in perspective over the course of its 2-10 record in 2013—the program trailed over 78 percent of the time in the season’s first six affairs. It’s important to point out that the squad is 2-11 in its previous 13 road openers, while it looks to snap an 18-game losing streak versus teams from a BCS conference.
The Owls are expecting an electrifying season from sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker, who ran for 488 yards and threw for another 2,084, while providing 23 total touchdowns. Temple is still a young bunch with only five seniors on the roster, but it should remain competitive against Vanderbilt, with one of the best linebacker groups in the country. Tyler Matakevich broke the school record with 137 tackles—11.5 for loss a season ago.
Vanderbilt will have a new look under first-year head coach Derek Mason taking over for James Franklin, who is now the head man at Penn State. The Commodores were on the rise in the SEC, but may take a step back, especially with only 10 starters returning to the scene. Mason will want to throw it this affair, considering Vandy will have to lean heavily on the running game down the road, especially with a Week 2 matchup with Mississippi on a neutral field. Vanderbilt is 4-1 in its last five Thursday games.
Look for the Owls to challenge Vanderbilt in the trenches as the Commodores were out-gained by an average of 76 yards during conference play in 2013.
Temple will need to hold a lead against Vanderbilt but Walker and the Owls offense is capable of putting up extreme numbers quickly. Vanderbilt’s biggest offensive stars are basically gone, their defensive backfield is dangerously inexperienced and the Commodores face a transition year as they move to a 3-4 defense — a move that often pays off in the long run after some short-term pain.
The out-of-conference schedule poses few serious challenges for Vanderbilt given that three of the four opponents are either currently in the FCS or were as recently as three years ago. Temple will no doubt be Vanderbilt’s out-of-conference test.