1. Churning it out
The running game has been a grind for UB during its 1-2 start. Power back Brandon Thermilus averages just 3.2 yards per carry with a scant long of 14. Ike Nduka owns the team's only run of longer than 20 yards. Granted, the Bulls faced a couple of stout defensive lines against Pitt and Central Florida. But they're going to see another one today, as the Owls return the bulk of the defense that held UB to 101 on the ground in last year's Bulls' win. UB might have to turn more to Mario Henry and Nduka for a change of pace. Henry ran for 125 in the 2007 meeting between the teams. Temple nose tackle Andre Neblett was on the Bronko Nagurski and Outland Trophy preseason watch lists.
2. Get a grip
The Bulls have been loose with the football since their turnover-free opener against UTEP, losing six fumbles and being intercepted twice. Two picks in three games is hardly cause for concern about first-year starting QB Zach Maynard. However, he has to do a better job protecting the football when he's pressured, and Temple, with seven sacks in its two starts, can bring the heat. The Owls are no better off, having lost three fumbles and surrendered three interceptions in losing to Villanova and Penn State.
3. The Naaman Factor
Who knows how differently last season might have gone for both teams had Naaman Roosevelt failed to haul in Drew Willy's 35-yard Hail Mary on the final play for a 30-28 UB victory? This is the last time the Owls will see Roosevelt, and surely they're glad of it. He torched them for 132 yards on eight catches in '08, including the decisive reception. Temple's determination to get to the quarterback should set up Roosevelt for the wide-receivers screens and short slants that allow him to work his magic after the catch. And if the Owls overplay Roosevelt? Either fellow wideout Brett Hamlin or tight end Jesse Rack could have a big day.
4. Run stoppers
The Bulls need to go power on power by forcing redshirt junior QB Vaughn Charlton into passing situations against their experienced secondary. And to accomplish that goal they will -- finally -- have to stop the run. Head coach Turner Gill said his defensive front seven made progress in the CFU game by improving against the power run attempts. Temple will come at them primarily with Kee-ayre Griffin, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound sophomore, while also giving them a different look with 6-0, 212 frosh Bernard Pierce. A trend that has to change: Five of UB's top seven in tackles reside in the secondary.
5. Setting the tone
The schedule says this is a bigger game for UB than Temple. The Bulls have crossover contests against the two powers in the MAC West, Central Michigan and Western Michigan. The Owls have a much easier draw, crossing over against Eastern Michigan, Ball State and Toledo while avoiding East foe Bowling Green altogether for the second straight season. The Owls have an easier road to make up ground if they drop this head-to-head tiebreaker.
Prediction: There's a lot of big-play potential in the Temple receiving corps, especially from multi-purpose back Joe Jones. UB counters with the same. But which team gets its running game going? UB, 20-17.