Temple University. In the heart of Philadelphia. Penn State's only consistent in-state rival, since we joined the Big Ten. Why do we continue to play Temple?
A truly competitive game isn't the point here. The last time that Temple came close to beating Penn State was in 1985. Oddly enough, that was a year when Penn State contended for the national championship, but we beat Temple by only 2 points. You have to go back to the 1975-1976 seasons to find a Temple team that was truly competitive with Penn State - two years in a row when PSU won by just one point in each of these games. And in the 38 times Penn State has played Temple, Penn State has won 34 times, Temple has won 3 times, and there was one tie. You have to go back to 1941 to find a win by Temple against Penn State, and the tie was in 1950.
I wasn't heavily involved with Penn State football before 1987, so all I know about Penn State-Temple games is that they have been a "guaranteed win" since I've witnessed these games.
That doesn't mean that Temple won't be competitive this year. Past history can take you only so far when predicting the future. That's why you play the game. But it would be a very historic upset if Temple wins the game on Saturday!
I would propose three reasons why we continue to play Temple: 1. Deep Penn State connections; 2. The Philadelphia market; and 3. The home game schedule.
The Penn State connections run deep, and it's hard to wish Temple ill, to feel any animosity toward them. They're a wonderfully competitive basketball school, but a somewhat sorry football program, at least in recent history. I'm sure, in fact, that Joe Paterno wants to help them be more successful. For one thing, their head coach is Al Golden, a former player and a two-year starter at tight end for Penn State, a Penn State graduate, and a team co-captain of the 1991 team. Al Golden also coached for the Nittany Lions in 2000. He was named Temple's head coach in 2006 after 4 years of coaching at the University of Virginia. In addition, Mark D'Onofrio serves as assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. He played linebacker for Penn State from 1988-91. Finally, there's State College native Mark Rhule, a linebacker for Penn State who graduated in 1997 as an Academic All-American. He is the offensive coordinator/linebackers coach.
There is a win-win situation here for both teams for continuing this in-state rivalry. Penn State is very likely to win the game, and that's good for our overall record in a season. But Temple has something to gain as well. Temple gains valuable experience for its players, playing against a very tough opponent that will help them compete against Mid American Conference (MAC) teams. Last year, with a 5-7 record, Temple was able to achieve its most wins in 18 years. They placed second in the MAC's East Division last year. Three of the games they lost last year were lost in the final play. They are improving under the direction of Al Golden, but it's an improvement that will play itself out more in the MAC than against Penn State (at least I hope). We always root for Temple to win when we're not playing them.
Another reason that Penn State plays Temple is the Philadelphia marketplace. Every once in a while we play an away game against Temple. The last one was in 2007 at Lincoln Financial Field. This is good for Penn State football recruiting purposes, and it's very good for the large Penn State alumni base located in the greater Philadelphia area. In fact, tickets for the Penn State-Temple game in 2007 were hard to find at face value, if you didn't have proper connections through Penn State to order their allotment of away game tickets. In 2007, scalping over the Internet in Pennsylvania was legal. The tickets were going for at least double face value because the internet sites had scooped up all the extra tickets available. I was amazed at the time. Penn State-Temple? They were all sold out, thanks to our "wonderful" new system of scalping. The game itself was like a Penn State home game, just relocated to Philadelphia. The Alumni Association pre-game tailgate was crowded with Penn State fans. In comparison, Temple football fans were hard to find at the game - few and far between.
Finally, there's the home game schedule. Since Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference, we have played Temple eight times. We played them at Giants Stadium in New Jersey once, at Franklin Field once, and at Lincoln Financial Field, their new home field, once. This year will be the sixth game played at Beaver Stadium, making the location 6-3 in favor of Beaver Stadium since 1993. Temple seems to be more negotiable on location than our other in-state rival, Pittsburgh, which is decidedly a more fierce rivalry. And of course, Penn State wins on revenues if it can host more home games here than the opposing team insists on playing there.
So we will welcome Temple again to Beaver Stadium. If recent history against this team predicts the future, it will be a lopsided score in favor of Penn State. Hopefully we will see some needed improvements that we know the team and the coaches are working on diligently this week. Hopefully the team will be focused on winning this game, and not looking ahead to the Big Ten opener against Iowa. Hopefully it will be a game where Penn State players who need more experience to contend in the Big Ten will have plenty of game time to gain it!
I'm betting on no surprises here and hope to just have fun at the game watching an offensive and defensive show!