Temple vs. Pitt: Panthers in intrastate matchup against Owls

Mark Konezny-US PRESSWIRE

For the first time in nearly a decade, Pitt and Temple will square off in a Big East matchup. With the Owls joining the conference again this year, the two Pennsylvania teams will battle it out. But with the Panthers' move to the ACC next season, it will be a short-lived rivalry.

But make no mistake -- Saturday's game is a big one for Pitt as the team tries to fight its way towards bowl eligibility.

Pitt enters with a 3-4 record and while a loss wouldn't knock the team out of contention, it would make things far more difficult due to the remaining schedule. A loss would mean the Panthers would need to win three of their final four games. More importantly, there are some difficult contests ahead. Pitt still has No. 5 Notre Dame on the road and a ranked undefeated Rutgers team at home left. And while the Panthers do still get the chance to play bad South Florida and UConn teams, both are on the road. Pitt will already have a tough time trying to win two of those contests - three would be incredibly difficult based on what we've seen from the team this year.

For that reason, the Temple game is a big one. The Owls aren't the 'gimme' on the schedule as they were in their old Big East days. The program improved during its stay in the MAC and as an independent and at 3-3 this season, already has two Big East wins under their collective belt over South Florida and UConn. Temple was also competitive in non-conference losses against Penn State and Maryland and led Rutgers 10-0 at halftime before eventually fading.

In other words, they're a threat to pull off the upset.

If Pitt does win, it may be their defense that leads the way. The Temple offense has struggled mightily this season and ranks only 88th in the FBS. In particular, it's the passing game that's not been very good. Their leading receiver, Jalen Fitzpatrick, has only 236 yards to date, averaging only about 40 yards per game. Junior quarterback Chris Coyer has been a bit of a mixed bag. Through his first four games, he had five touchdown passes to only one interception. But over his last two contests, his quarterback rating has dropped significantly and he's thrown two picks to only two touchdowns.

Coyer has also been inaccurate most of the season, completing only 53 percent of his passes. Even worse is that number is a bit inflated by a strong game against South Florida. That was the only contest where he completed more than 50 percent, and you can bet that Pitt's secondary will be hoping to force him into some bad decisions.

This could be a close game, but if Pitt's offense can put up some points, I expect the Panthers will come away with a victory.

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