Spotlight on Stewart and Szczur

Though Chester Stewart has struggled, he will be the quarterback today against Bowling Green. (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff File Photo)

The last time I wrote about Chester Stewart on here, I got roasted for the particular choice of word I used to describe his poor play.

Well, I've heard that same word used by a few friends who are Temple alumni and Owls fans over the last few weeks. So this time, I'm going to let you choose the adjective. I will just provide a few statistics:

- Stewart hasn't completed more than half his pass attempts in a game since Temple's 42-35 win over Connecticut on September 18. Stewart has completed an average of 47.3 percent of his passes (44-93) in the Owls' last four games, including the aforementioned one against the Huskies.

- As Kevin Tatum noted in Wednesday's Inquirer, Stewart is 71 of 132 passing for 831 yards on the season, with four touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also been sacked 13 times this season, although seven of those came in the first two games of the year against Villanova (three) and Central Michigan (four).

- As a team, Temple has committed 11 fumbles this season, of which six were lost, and has converted only 26 of 75 third-down opportunities (34.7 percent).

Owls coach Al Golden has called out his team in the press repeatedly this week, first on Monday, then Wednesday, then again yesterday. Golden described his players as "passionless," himself as "embarrassed," and the current form of Stewart as "unacceptable."

But Golden knows that the only players behind Stewart on the depth chart are redshirts: junior Mike Gerardi and freshman Chris Coyer. Neither has the kind of game experience that Stewart has, for better or for worse.

So I ask you: should Golden bench Stewart? Or is it better to go with experience, especially with Bernard Pierce apparently ready to be a featured back again?

Speaking of local stars returning from injuries, Villanova fans have spent this week worrying rather loudly about the health of Matt Szczur. The do-it-all receiver's status has changed a few times over the last few days, which has prompted more than a few alarmist reactions from Wildcats bloggers and Twitterati.

From the latest reports, it seems like Szczur will be a game-time decision. But it also seems like Szczur is healthier than he's been in a while, and my hunch is he'll play Saturday. Maine isn't very good. The Black Bears are 1-2 in CAA play and 2-4 overall, with the wins coming against Monmouth and New Hampshire.

Among the losses were a 26-7 rout last weekend at Delaware and a 3-0 defeat at home to Albany on the opening weekend of the season.

But 'Nova coach Andy Talley knows his team is 1-5 in its last six trips north to Orono, and the campus is getting socked by a classic Nor'easter this weekend. Today's forecast calls for rain and double-digit winds throughout the afternoon, with a forecast high of only 52 degrees.

(I would volunteer to be the house meteorologist, but Bill Conlin already has that job, so I'll defer to him.)

The other local game today is Columbia at Penn, as the Quakers head into Ivy League play for the rest of the season. Columbia is on its first three-game winning streak in 13 years, having beaten Towson, Princeton and Lafayette by at least two touchdowns each.

But Penn hasn't lost to Columbia since 1996, though the Quakers' win in 1997 was forfeited because of an ineligible player. Nonetheless, it's been a very long time since the Lions came out on top in this matchup.

Whether you're headed to Lincoln Financial Field, Franklin Field or just your couch, enjoy today's action and the great early-autumn weather across the region.

Local Sagarin rankings

Each team's ranking progression through the season is listed from left to right.

35. Delaware (48-66-92-65-106-112)
65. Temple (56-50-46-60-59-99)
66. Penn State (32-22-22-27-24-10)
95. Villanova (77-72-69-71-104-64)
107. Rutgers (86-67-53-57-39-60)
197. Lehigh (168- 162-168-143-146)
199. Penn (140-131-131-128-130-135)
234. Princeton (201-181-208-187-189-187)
236. Lafayette (207-198-204-220-141-156)
241. Delaware State (230-227-221-222-220-204)
244. Bucknell (237-238-235-235-230-213)

Yes, Temple really is ranked above Penn State. The Owls' edge is 0.04 points: 70.85 to 70.81. Which means that if the two teams played at Lincoln Financial Field, Temple would be favored by a field goal.

Delaware remains the top-ranked I-AA team in Sagarin, with James Madison coming in second at No. 40. Among the teams ranked below the Blue Hens are Notre Dame, Texas, Kansas State and Georgia.

Sagarin predictions for selected games

I-A rankings by the AP, I-AA rankings by The Sports Network. Note that the home-field advantage factor has now been changed to 3.91 points.

No. 6 Villanova at Maine (12:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet): Villanova by 3 (65.36 to 58.01 + 3.91)
Columbia at No. 25 Penn (12:00 p.m., Comcast Network): Penn by 7 (48.37 + 3.91 to 45.59)
Bowling Green at Temple (1:00 p.m.): Temple by 17 (70.85 + 3.91 to 57.86)

Texas at No. 5 Nebraska (3:30 p.m., ABC): Nebraska by 15 (87.50 + 3.91 to 76.05)
No. 12 Arkansas at No. 7 Auburn (3:30 p.m., CBS): Auburn by 8 (84.80 + 3.91 to 80.35)
No. 1 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin (7:00 p.m., ESPN): Ohio State by 1 (85.08 to 80.01 + 3.91)

The top five teams in Sagarin right now are Oregon, TCU, Boise State, Stanford and LSU. Ohio State is ranked No. 15.