Tech takes the field this Saturday to face a foe familiar to Geoff Collins: Temple University, where Collins served as head coach the previous two seasons. The game marks the first time the head coach will face off against his former team, having recruited many of the opposing players to the school during his time there. After a week off to recover from a shocking loss to The Citadel, Temple presents an opportunity for the Jackets to get back on track for the season.
Both teams are coming off of disheartening losses, as Temple also suffered a 38-22 defeat to Buffalo this past Saturday. The game was even less close than the score indicated, as an inefficient Temple offense combined with lackadaisical defense carried Buffalo to a score of 38-10 entering the fourth.
Temple’s lack of rush defense is a good sign for Tech, whose roster leans more towards a run-based scheme. In the game against Temple, Buffalo ran the ball for 217 yards, giving the Bulls complete ownership of the clock as they led time of possession by more than fifteen minutes. The game stands as an outlier for the Temple defense, which currently ranks No. 39 in the FBS for defensive rushing yards allowed — Tech currently ranks No. 116 on the list. A key factor in the success of Tech’s ground game will be how the Temple defensive line plays. Tech has struggled for most of the season in protecting the quarterback, no matter who is playing at the position. But if Temple’s defensive line plays like it did against Buffalo, Tech’s running backs could have an opportunity to put up points.
Temple’s quarterback, Anthony Russo, is coming off of a three-interception game. A repeat of that performance would give the Jackets opportunities for points, but relying on another team to make mistakes is never a sure thing. With Temple’s quarterback currently sitting at five interceptions on the year, the Jackets will need to add to that count to go for an upset.
Meanwhile, Tech’s offense has to show up at some point this season. The Jackets are averaging just 17.3 points per game, the seventh lowest figure in all of FBS. While part of that comes from strength of schedule — opening the season against a stifling Clemson defense can do that to a team — the fact that an FCS defense held Tech to just 24 points in their most recent game is evidence enough of Tech’s problems. Tech’s ever-present ground game has struggled, but the Jackets’ biggest issue has been the fact that they’re throwing the ball more frequently and doing so less efficiently. Last year, Tech averaged just 9.7 passing attempts per game with a 44.4% completion rate — this year, while Tech is completing 53.8% of their passes, they’re throwing 17.3 passes per game, so Tech is ultimately coming up empty more frequently despite seeing a slight improvement in efficiency over last season. Against a Temple defense of Collin’s own construction, Tech’s issues could very well continue.
Temple is the opponent against whom Tech has the highest win probability for the rest of the season. The Jackets are currently predicted to have a 32% chance at winning over Temple according to ESPN’s FPI projection system. Whatever happens, the real question lies in how Tech will showcase themselves after the second loss to an FCS team in school history. If Tech can come back with force, a win is most definitely within reach. Saturday offers a poetic opportunity for Collins to get his team back on track against none other than the team he helped build.