Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-0) @ Temple Owls (3-2)
Saturday, October 20
Why is the line at -5?
The line actually started at Rutgers -4. It has moved up since then to -5 or even -5.5 in some books. At first glance, this may look like a sucker bet, as Rutgers is undefeated, ranked #15 in the country, and playing a team that is not known for football success. Is this line too good to be true for those leaning in Rutgers direction? The answer is no. My guess is that the oddsmakers are predicting a low scoring affair, just as they have in the previous two Rutgers
games (-7 vs UConn, -7 vs Syracuse). After all, Rutgers is only averaging 25 points per game, which doesn’t leave much room for error defensively when trying to cover by 5-7 points. However, the Rutgers defense has definitely answered the call so far this season. (ranked #7 overall in scoring defense).
Temple Offense vs Rutgers Defense
Temple likes to run the ball more than almost every other team in the country. In fact, they are running the ball 62% of the time, which ranks as 10th most in the nation ahead of teams like Alabama, LSU, and Wisconsin. They usually run a shotgun-set, zone-read option to do most of their damage on the ground. Their QB, Coyer, makes good decisions on the option, and has excellent running ability. The Owls like to go with the hurry-up offense, not allowing the other team to make defensive substitutions. They also like to line up in the old-school, double TE, I-formation from time to time. However, Temple’s preference to run the ball at a high percentage plays right into the strength of the Rutgers defense. The Scarlet Knights rank 2nd in the country (behind Alabama) in rushing defense by only surrendering 58 yards per game. They are only giving up 2.3 yards per carry. Look for Rutgers to stuff the run, and force Temple to beat them through the air. If this happens, it will be a long day for the Temple offense that ranks 102nd in pass completion percentage. The Owls are only converting an abysmal 30% of their third down attempts (#113 in nation) due in large part to their inability to pass the ball on third and long scenarios. They may find themselves in plenty of those situations if the stingy Rutgers defense can stop the run on first and second down.
Rutgers Offense vs Temple Defense
Rutgers also likes to establish the run with their star RB Jamison. Temple is giving up 143 rushing yards per game, so Jamison may find some running room in between the Owls' front seven. If that holds true, it should set up play-action opportunities for the Knights’ efficient QB, Nova. In the past four games, he has thrown 8 TD’s and 0 INT’s. UConn had success passing the ball down the middle of the field early in last week’s game vs Temple. Look for Rutgers’ big, physical receivers to break inside with slant or post routes to take advantage of the holes in the secondary.
It is paramount that Rutgers is able to establish a solid running threat in this game. Much like Rutgers defensive gameplan heading into this matchup, Temple will also try to stuff the run to get the Knights into predictable passing situations. Temple thrives in getting a good pass rush, as they have managed to get sacks on nearly 9% of their opponents passing attempts (which ranks 11th in the nation). To stay away from those situations, Rutgers will need to keep the Owl’s defensive front guessing with a balanced attack.
The only significant downfall of this Rutgers offense early in the season has been their inability to finish drives. They rank 101st in the country in red-zone scoring at 71%, They certainly don’t want to fall into the same trap UConn did against Temple last week when the Huskies missed four field goals and lost the game in overtime. The Knights have to find a way to finish drives to keep pressure on the Temple offense to make a play.
Temple usually plays pretty well at home, as they are 3-0 against the spread as a home
underdog in the past three years. That includes an impressive, straight up 37-28 win two weeks ago over South Florida. On the other hand, this Rutgers team has proven to be road warriors early in the season. They picked up some quality wins at South Florida and at Arkansas, keeping their composure late in both those games to seal the victories.
I think Rutgers will come out focused and ready to play their brand of football. It’s always hard to lay points on the road, but Rutgers is a confident team that runs the ball, stops the run, doesn’t turn the ball over, and gets takeaways. They should be able to stop Temple’s one-dimensional offense, all the while keeping a balanced offense themselves. I think they will keep on rolling, remain undefeated, and cover the spread. TAKE RUTGERS -5.
Get more Week 8 College Football Selections at The Pick List.