Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
How will this one go?
Man, can Rutgers play one game where the other team isn't circling the game on the calendar? Regional rivalries are one thing, but this is getting ridiculous. Of all the awful aspects of being stuck in the Big East conference, this is one of the more underrated pratfalls. It's getting a little overwhelming, and frankly, the idea of Rutgers ever being in this position remains unnerving. No, we're supposed to sneak up on you!
Now, Penn State and Notre Dame, that's hate. UConn wasn't hate, just shutting up their smack-talking players with a good old-fashioned thumping. Syracuse was pretty cordial, but with all the vitriol coming from that direction in the past decade, it was fun to tweak them a little. Temple? Well, papreps is more than a little nuts, but other than that, what's there to hate? Obviously, Rutgers sees more than a little of themselves in Temple. And while it's cynical. and more than a little condescending (good for you guys, but we're off doing our own thing), a successful Temple athletics program would on the whole be good for Rutgers. Even if only as a way to hammer Penn State football and Villanova basketball. You'd be sacrificing a little, but they would be taking the big hits. Plus, it WOULD be good for college football in the area if Temple was a good team and Philadelphia embraced them. That's absolutely why Rutgers fought so hard to get Temple back into the Big East over the past few years over the objections of Nova and the Providence Cabal.
You had to throw the mediocre preseason projections away going into the year, because those are just the product of group think anyway. Temple lost a lot from a successful team last year, but they did a good job the past few years stockpiling talent. Nate Smith, Khalif Harbin, etc... - we knew these guys can play. There's a lot of good talent in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and they're in a position where they can reload a bit with some younger players starting to step up. Getting Montel Harris from Boston College as an eleventh hour bonus certainly helps too. It's definitely a conservative, run-heavy offense; the game today has the potential to turn into a big time defensive struggle. The losses to Maryland and Penn State aren't great given how both teams have struggled this year, but this isn't a bad team. They're probably a notch below Syracuse, but still competent. Given that this is a road game, there is undoubtedly trap potential for Rutgers to come out flat. I think Rutgers wins, but will probably have to sweat until pulling away early in the fourth. Calls to open up the offense will only increase if that ultimately ends up being what happens.
Prediction: Rutgers 23, Temple 16