Here comes the long stretch. Temple is coming off their second bye in six weeks, and they will be without another break until the weekend of November 22nd. This is an incredibly important stretch for the Owls as they face five consecutive conference opponents. The well-rested Owls kick off this stretch with their homecoming game, noon Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field versus the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa.
Who are the Golden Hurricane?
Tulsa is led by head coach Bill Blankenship, who is in his fourth year, with a record of 23-21. He won the Conference USA Coach of the Year Award in his first season, when he lead Tulsa to an 11-3 record. However, this year's Golden Hurricane are off to a rough start at 1-4.
Tulsa shapes up as kind of an ideal opponent for Temple. Temple's strength is on the offensive side of the ball, despite the great improvements the defense has shown thus far. The Golden Hurricane have allowed 42.4 points per game, 126th in the nation. Meanwhile Temple has scored 39 per game, ranking 25th nationally, allowing only 12--good for 3rd. However, Temple will have to keep an eye out for junior defensive end Derrick Alexander, who has 16 stops and 5 tackles for loss this season.
Tulsa's super young offense (they have only one senior) is led by sophomore quarterback Dane Evans. This season Evans has completed 55-percent of his passes this year for 1367 yards, 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
His 287 passing yards per-game are good for 30th in the nation. His favorite target is Keevan Lucas, whose 44 receptions are more than double the next closest Hurricane. Lucas has already accumulated 540 receiving yards. While Tulsa's strength is undoubtedly in throwing the ball, they have three backs averaging over 4 yards per carry, James Flanders, Zack Langer, and Tavarreon Dickerson.
So what's the plan?
Get on top early (duh). Tulsa has been outscored 59-0 in the first quarter this season, and 120-28 in the first half. Temple, on the other hand, has outscored opponents 49-10 in the first quarter and 91-27 in the first half.
Tulsa clearly has had trouble stopping teams from scoring this season, and Temple has been thriving on offense. The easiest way to jump out to an early lead is on the arm of P.J. Walker, who has been having a banner year. He is leading the conference in completion percentage (65.1), and has 805 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.
He's going to have his fair share of opportunities to attack the Tulsa defense early, so that Temple can ice away the lead with their steady rushing attack, which also includes Walker, who leads the team in carries with 30, for 118 yards. Running backs Jamie Gilmore, Jahad Thomas, and Kenneth Harper all have over 25 carries and 100 yards as well. If Temple leads early, they will be able to keep the rushing attack fresh, and the game out of reach from the Hurricane.
Temple runs a balanced attack (143 rushing attempts to 138 passing), but if they fail to jump out to an early lead, they'll rely more on Walker. In the only game they trailed for a significant period of time this season (Navy) Walker threw 50 passes.
What should we expect?
Tulsa has not allowed under 37 points in a game this season, and Temple has been scoring at a pretty solid clip. As well, their defense has been staunch so far this season. I foresee the Owls silencing the young Tulsa offense early, and coasting to victory in the second half.
Prediction: Temple 42, Tulsa 21