Friday night Temple and Memphis will jockey for position in the six-team chunk of the American with 3 conference wins.
Memphis, at 3-1, might have a slightly better shot than Temple (3-2) at winning the league, but realistically I think it's between ECU, Houston, and UCF. Temple might have learned a game too late that all things are possible through Jeezy, who gives them strength.
Both of these teams are 5-3 overall, so a win for either clinches bowl eligibility. For some that's not such a big deal, but for teams like Temple and Memphis who have only been to a combined 11 bowl games, it is.
Temple is coming off their first victory over a ranked opponent in 16 years to meet with Memphis, who come to Philadelphia following consecutive dropkicks of SMU and Tulsa.
Temple faces another high-caliber offense this week, as Memphis ranks 22nd nationally in points scored. Justin Fuente, like Temple's Matt Rhule, is prone to spreading the field and running the ball with success.
Fuente's Tigers rank 37th in the country in rushing yards, thanks to a stable of running backs that average around 4 or more yards per carry, led by Brandon Hayes and Sam Craft. Also worth noting, Fuente is the architect of a play called "Cheetos."
In games versus UCF and Houston Temple was strong against the run, but they allowed over 200 yards and 4.6 per carry to ECU. Memphis will undoubtedly try to follow suit on that front.
Temple's defense did a great job limiting the potential of Shane Carden and ECU's passing game last week, allowing only 217 yards on 41 attempts. However, much of that can also be attributed to the game being played in something of a monsoon.
Prior to that, they struggled against Justin Holman and Greg Ward Jr. Paxton Lynch is a more than capable passer, who kept Memphis competitive with UCLA earlier this season, and has compiled 1891 yards, 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions thus far. The defense's performance against Lynch will go a long way in proving whether or not last week's events were a fluke.
Temple's offense has been a mixed bag over the last month. They were sparked against Tulsa and Houston by massive games from Jahad Thomas, who became less of a focal point over the last couple weeks. Sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker has not been able to get right, and the offense has suffered as a whole.
The turnover windfall in the ECU game made sure the offense didn't need to do much to succeed, and they certainly didn't, as they were out-gained by nearly 300 yards. Memphis has the 15th ranked scoring defense in the country, so the Owl offense needs to start clicking sooner rather than later, if they want to stay afloat in the conference.
Temple 28, Memphis 24
Memphis is favored by 7.5 in this one, so my inherent bias could be showing. On the other hand, Temple is a team that recently will only ever do the opposite of what I expect from them. I think the Temple offense is ready to get back to what had them scoring over 30 points per game this season, but we'll see if I'm right on Friday.