Temple finished their season on a good note as they beat Wyoming in dominant fashion 37-15 in the New Mexico Bowl to improve their overall record to 9-4 last year. They have now been to the bowl game for two of the last three years and have won more than eight games for the third year in a row as well. With West Virginia leaving the Big East to join the Big 12, it gave Temple the opportunity to return to the conference as they were members of the Big East from 1991-2004.
Second year head coach Steve Addazio is in for a very tough season ahead as they go back to a conference that booted them out. Now they are in a rebuilding season with only eight starters coming back.
Their offense last year was as putrid as can be as they barely threw the ball. Chester Stewart was the leading passer with just 743 yards on 83 attempts; however he has since left the program. Him leaving doesn’t give the team any problems as Stewart already lost the starting position to Chris Coyer by the end of the season. Coyer started the last four games of the year and ended up throwing 463 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He was also third on the team with 562 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Coyer now faces even more pressure to improve as he enters his junior year. The Owls lost one of the top running backs in all of college football in Bernard Pierce who left early for the NFL. While Matt “The Bug” Brown returns this year, he doesn’t have the size to be an every down back.
Temple figures to have a tough time with three of their top receiving options from last year leaving. With a run-first offense, a talented wide receiver isn’t really needed though. The biggest threat coming back is Deon Miller but he had just 18 catches for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
Making things worse for the Owls is the holes on the offensive line. The only starter back upfront is senior right tackle Martin Wallace. They now have very little experience coming back, as all four starters who left had started for at least two years.
The Owls were able to beat teams with their running game and a top notch defense in the MAC. Temple allowed just 18.9 points/game behind a very balanced unit that allowed just 124 yards/game on the ground and 188 yards/game through the air. That was a direct result of a lack of competition in the MAC though, and with them back in the Big East, they have no way of even coming close to the numbers they had last year.
Temple has done a fantastic job of developing NFL-ready defensive linemen. Last year they had to replace a first-round draft pick in defensive tackle Muhammed Wilkerson, yet still were able to show improvement against the run. This year they lose three time 1st Team All-MAC defensive end Adrian Robinson and 3rd Team All-MAC defensive end Morkeith Brown. They do however, bring back both starting defensive tackles, including 300 lb nose tackle Levi Brown.
Linebacker could be their Achilles heel this year as they must replace 1st Team All-MAC outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead and middle linebacker Stephen Johnson. Their lone starter coming back is junior outside linebacker Blaze Caponegro.
The secondary loses starting corner Kee-Ayre Griffin and free safety Kevin Kroboth, but have six of their top eight back from last season. They should put up similar numbers against the pass again this season, as long as the defensive line continues to play at a high level. Senior strong safety Justin Gildea is the one player to keep an eye on in 2012.
Big East Prediction – 8th Big East
The Owls could definitely improve and compete in the Big East in time. But as of now, the Owls have little to no chance of being a threat in 2012. Their defense could carry them for short periods, but with their offense being virtually nonexistent, they will be unable to compete with some of the powerhouses in the conference.