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Temple/Rutgers Prediction: Scarlet Knights A Tough Challenge For The Owls

Can Temple get to 3-0 in the Big East?

Temple and Rutgers are only 67 miles apart, but these regional rivals have not met since 2004. With first place in the Big East on the line on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Temple is going to have to play one of its best games to beat the undefeated Scarlet Knights.

As we all know, defense wins championships and thus far the Scarlet Knights, under new coach Kyle Flood, are led by their stingy defense which ranks in the top five in the country in several categories. They are ranked second in the country in rush defense (58.2 yards/game) and have not allowed a 100 yard rusher in ten straight games. The defense is led by senior defensive tackle Scott Villone, who has started 44 consecutive games, clogs up the middle, and makes it tough on opposing running backs. This is not good news for the Owls because they heavily rely on their running game to score points. Senior running back Montel Harris has rushed for 130+ yards in back-to-back games so something has to give on Saturday.

Rutgers is also third in the country in fewest points allowed per game. Rutgers trails only Alabama and Notre Dame by giving up only 10.8 points per game, an astonishing number. The Knights are led on the defensive side of the ball by linebacker Khaseem Greene, who has picked up right where he left off in 2011, when he was named Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year. This season Greene leads the Scarlet Knights with 63 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries. He is eighth on the all-time Rutgers tackling list with 314 tackles.

He is supported by teammates Logan Ryan and Jamal Merrell, who provide great senior leadership on and off the field. These linebackers are a big reason why the defense has had so many interceptions, ranking third in the country with twelve. Cornerback Brandon Jones also adds three interceptions of his own.

Rutgers' offense tends to get over shadowed by its exceptional defense but it too has a lot of talented players that should pose a tough challenge for the Owls' defense. The Knights are predominantly a run-first team and for good reason -- junior running back Jawan Jamison has already rushed for 897 yards through just six games. He has rushed for 100+ yards in each game this season which puts him into elite company with superstar alum Ray Rice as the only players to rush past the century mark in six consecutive games (Rice had 8 straight games over 100 yards in 2006).

Gary Nova is excelling as the Scarlet Knights signal-caller this year as well. He has thrown for 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is doing a good job of protecting the football, throwing only two interceptions this season. His main target is sophomore wide receiver Brandon Coleman who has developed into one of the nation's premier deep threats. Eight of his 11 touchdowns have covered 30 or more yards and he averages 22.8 yards per reception for his career. Coleman is tied for the Big East lead with five receiving touchdowns. Overall, the Scarlet Knights average 25 points per game on offense and put up over 350 yards per game.

Rutgers also has an excellent special teams unit. Since Robb Smith took over as special teams coordinator in 2009, Rutgers is leading the nation in blocked kicks, and his unit has scored 10 touchdowns since 2009. It is rare that they give up the big return and cost their team field position due to their excellent tackling on kick coverage. Kicker Kyle Federico was injured last weekend during practice, so Nick Borgese filled in against Syracuse and did an admirable job, as he was perfect on his kicks. Federico is questionable for this weekend's game.

Overall, Rutgers' only key win came on the road against Arkansas, who has since fallen off of the map. Its schedule thus far has not been particularly demanding, so the Knights are excited to take on the ever-improving Owls team to try to get to 7-0 for the first time since 1976. They have a very balanced team that does not have one area in which they struggle. Their defense will be hard for the Owls to run on, but Temple's running back Montel Harris has shown that he is a big game back so that matchup could go either way. I think Temple comes away with the upset win to win three straight Big East games for the first time ever on a big day from Montel Harris, as he will break Rutgers' streak of holding the opposing running back to under 100 yards.

Temple 21, Rutgers 17