It looked like such a winnable game in the preseason and it still very well could be. But on Saturday Temple will be hosting a Maryland team that has been the talk of the early college football season.
A season-opening 79-0 win by Maryland over Howard barely drew a reaction, just as Temple’s 56-12 victory over Bucknell didn’t tell a whole lot. But last week, when Temple had a bye, Maryland pasted then-No. 21 Syracuse, 63-20.
So Maryland is now the No. 21-ranked team, its first time in the Top 25 since 2013, when the Terps started out 4-0 and were still in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
This is now a much more difficult game for Temple than it looked. So much so that the Owls, despite being home at Lincoln Financial Field, are an eight-point underdog.
At least Temple won’t have to go back very far to recall a similar situation. The Owls faced these same Maryland Terrapins last year.
Maryland was also 2-0 entering that game and had beaten a ranked team (No. 23 Texas). Temple was in a little different position, having started 0-2 with losses to Villanova and Buffalo. The Owls went to College Park and crushed the Terps, 35-14, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
So Temple, at least, isn’t overwhelmed about facing the favored Big Ten team. It’s not too dramatic to suggest that the win last year turned everything around for the Owls, who finished 8-5.
“I believe that win saved our season,” said senior linebacker Sam Franklin, who had a team-high seven tackles in the game. “I believe it gave us our confidence back last year.”
The situation this year is similar except for one major difference: The talent at Maryland is better, especially at quarterback.
“In this situation, I feel their offense is a lot more potent this year,” Franklin said. “They have athletes all over the field, and their defense is excellent.”
Maryland struggled in its passing game last year. In the loss to Temple, the Terps used two quarterbacks who totaled just 63 yards passing.
The addition of redshirt junior quarterback Josh Jackson, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, has made a huge difference. He threw seven TD passes in the two games. And the ground game has produced, too. The Terps are averaging 335.5 yards rushing, fourth in the nation. Six Terps have scored a rushing touchdown.
Again, the stats are inflated because one of the opponents was overmatched Howard, but Syracuse had no answers for the Terps offense, either.
And the Maryland defense has 12 sacks. Linebacker Keandre Jones, an Ohio State transfer, leads the way with 3.5, including two against Syracuse.
Still, Temple won’t go into this game wide-eyed. It’s not as if the Terps didn’t have talented players last year. And the Owls soundly outplayed them.
“Last year they were real fast, and they are real fast this year,” Owls quarterback Anthony Russo said.
Temple revels in being in this type of situation, the underdog against a ranked team.