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Unpredictable Lions

Joe Paterno's offenses at Penn State have sometimes been described as predictable, but this season, opposing defenses don't know what's coming next.

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They certainly aren't stopping it when it does.

The No. 16 Nittany Lions hope to keep one of college football's most potent offenses humming Saturday at Beaver Stadium when they go for their 26th straight win over Temple.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Penn St -28 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Penn St -28  (View College Football bet percentages).

Paterno's teams have been known primarily for running the ball and defense throughout his 43 seasons on the sidelines, but this year it's been a multidimensional offense that has Penn State climbing up the rankings.

The Nittany Lions (3-0) are among the nation's top 25 in both passing (273.0 yards per game) and rushing (263.0 ypg), resulting in the country's eighth-ranked total offense and fourth-highest scoring team.

Penn State has put up 55.3 points per game with its new "Spread HD" offense, a system designed to take advantage of mobile quarterback Daryll Clark and the speed of senior receivers Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams. The Nittany Lions have put away all three of their games by the second quarter, and on Saturday at Syracuse, they gained nearly 400 yards in the first half of a 55-13 victory.

"It's always a good thing when you score early," said Paterno, who won his 375th game as Penn State coach. "I'm just not sure how good we're going to be yet. We haven't faced any adversity yet, so we'll see."

The Nittany Lions have scored at least 35 points in the first half in each of their three wins, the first time they've done that since 1994. That team averaged 47.0 points, ranking as one of the top 10 offenses in college football over the last 15 years.

Clark has been the catalyst for this offense, completing 60.3 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions, often not seeing much action beyond halftime. He's also averaging 9.4 yards per carry, and tailback Evan Royster has averaged 8.1 while scoring six touchdowns.

Penn State, which was 75th in the country in passing a year ago, threw for 344 yards on Saturday to match the 10th-most all-time under Paterno. Butler (seven catches, 110 yards) and Norwood (five catches, 113 yards) each had two touchdowns against Syracuse.

"We never let down," said receiver Chaz Powell, who had two catches for 37 yards. "They keep telling us at every game, go out there at halftime and play as if (it's) 0-0. Keep fighting and show the world that you can play ball."

Paterno is 24-0 against Temple, including victories the last two seasons by a combined 78-0. Penn State has not lost in 33 games in this series since 1941, though the teams did play to a 7-7 tie in 1950.

The Owls (1-2) don't have a winning record this season, though they could easily be 3-0 if not for a pair of crushing last-second defeats.

Temple led Connecticut 6-0 on Sept. 6 before eventually falling 12-9 in overtime, but that loss wasn't nearly as unsettling as what happened last Saturday. Adam DiMichele threw an 11-yard touchdown pass - his third of the game - to Bruce Francis to put the Owls up 28-24 at Buffalo with under a minute to play, but the Bulls completed a Hail Mary pass as time expired to win 30-28.

"There's no way to describe it, and there's no way to rationalize it, and that's it," said Temple coach Al Golden, a Penn State tight end from 1987-91 and former assistant to Paterno. "We didn't do our job. They finished the game and we didn't."

DiMichele is in his third season as Temple's starting quarterback and he's gotten progressively better each year. The Owls' problem is that DiMichele is also their top running threat.

He's led them in rushing in their last two games, gaining 111 yards on 22 carries. Running backs Marquise Liverpool and Joe Jones are averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.

Penn State is 16th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 64.3 yards per game.

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