Temple and ECU meet in Philadelphia this weekend for a noon game that has major implications for each team, the AAC title race and the New Year's Six bowl games. Temple, having dropped two conference games in a row, is looking to regain their footing and fulfill bowl game aspirations that were fostered by a 4-1 start. ECU will need to keep winning to lock down the American and if they are to have any chance at a New Year's Day bowl game.
Led by Shane Carden, the ECU Pirates' passing attack is third in the country with their 381.9 yards per game average. Carden is a potential future pro, and he's made that perfectly obvious to opponents both inside and out of the American with his play.
To stop Carden, Temple is going to need to be a lot stronger against the pass than they were versus UCF and Houston. Greg Ward Jr. and Justin Holman were a combined 54 of 72 (75%) for 604 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in their meetings with the Owls.
ECU has also benefited from a top-50 rushing attack, averaging 185.1 yards per game on the ground. Senior running back Breon Allen has 569 yards on 75 carries so far this season, and rotation backs Chris Hairston, Marquez Grayson, and Anthony Scott are averaging at least 4.9 yards per carry.
Temple's 72nd-ranked rush defense has allowed 168.4 yards per game on the ground this season. In fairness, over 40% of the rushing yards they have allowed this season came versus Navy. The UCF and Houston rushing attacks were kept to 2.8 and 3.5 yards per carry respectively.
Temple's offensive success will be contingent upon which P.J. Walker comes out of the tunnel on Saturday. Over the last three weeks he's completed only 47.7 percent of his passes with 4 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. In the four games before that he was completing 65% of his passes with 7 touchdowns to 3 interceptions.
Early season P.J. gives this team a chance to win, but recent P.J. drags the rest of the offense down with him. ECU ranks 100th out of 128 teams in FBS against the pass, which gives Walker a very real chance to get back on track.
ECU's rushing defense is a different story. They currently allow only 101.3 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 10th among FBS teams. Temple has talent at the running back position despite their 107 position among rushing offenses in the FBS. Running backs Jahad Thomas and Jamie Gilmore are averaging 6.2 and 5 yards per carry respectively.
However, it seems all too likely that Temple will fall behind early as they have done often in recent weeks, and rely on the arm of P.J. Walker to keep them afloat. I think a good game from Walker gives Temple a chance, but allowing him to get into a shootout with someone like Carden is a recipe for disaster. That is what I see happening tomorrow, and why it is easy to expect the Owls to drop their third straight and ECU to keep rolling.
ECU 38, Temple 21