Start Time: 7:00 PM, Saturday, November 14
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
TV: CBS Sports Network
Live Stats: Link
Line: Temple -2.5; Over/Under: 44.5
What's at stake in this one? Oh, not much. Just the AAC East. The #22 Owls are 5-0 in the AAC, while the Bulls sit at 3-2 in conference. If Temple can get past the Bulls, they'll clinch the AAC East crown. But if USF wins? CHAOS!
Both teams are coming off impressive wins. The Owls scored 60 (!) points in last week's win at SMU, even trailing the Ponies at one point in the second quarter before kicking into high gear and pulling away. The Bulls hung on late against ECU for a 22-17 win, but limited the Pirates to just 220 total yards on the night. Now, the Owls and the Bulls have to square off in what might be the most significant game played at Raymond James Stadium (sorry, Bucs!) this season.
What to expect from Temple
Take a wild guess. At this point, you know what you're going to get from the Owl offense. Mainly, they're going to try to run over you with P.J. Walker and Jahad Thomas. Lately though, Walker has shown that he doesn't mind chucking it around. Over the past three games (against ECU, Notre Dame and SMU), Walker has thrown for 706 yards and six TDs. True, those numbers aren't mind-blowing, but when you consider that the offense is built around a punishing run game (they have nearly 100 more rushing attempts than passing attempts), those numbers leap out. Walker's favorite targets have been Robby Anderson and Ventell Bryant, who have combined for three touchdowns. With Thomas providing a steady 4.83 yards per attempt and Walker and the passing game providing big plays, the USF defense will have its hands full.
And then you have the Temple defense. The Owls have the number one defense in the AAC, allowing 335.3 yards per game. USF's strength on offense is the run game, but it will be severely tested by the Owls' run defense, which is allowing just 110.67 yards per game. Led by Tyler Matakevich, Matt Ioannidis, Haason Reddick and Sean Chandler, Temple has the ability to completely shut you down on the ground and through the air.
What to expect from USF
The good news for the Bulls is that they are rounding into form at the perfect time. Last week against ECU, the offense was able to churn out 442 yards (5.33 yards per play) and the aforementioned defense looked overwhelming at times. Even though they couldn't pull away, they still showed why Temple should be nervous.
The Bull offense is averaging nearly 6.01 yards per play and has one of the conference's best one-two punches with quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack. Flowers is only a sophomore, so he's still learning and growing. That's scary, because he is averaging 233.1 total yards per game in total offense and is completing almost 60% of his passes with a 12 to 6 touchdown to interception ratio. For his part, Mack is the second leading rusher in the conference. He's averaging 104.3 yards per game (5.84 yards per play), with four touchdowns on the year. USF loves to pound the ball to control the clock, so expect a healthy dose of the run game against Temple.
While the offense can be touch and go, the Bulls' defense is always solid. Ranked fifth in the conference, USF is allowing 369 yards per game. The run defense is the strong suit, holding the opposition to an average of 153.56 yards per game. The pass defense is solid as well, allowing only 215.4 yards per game. Another big strength for the Bulls is forcing turnovers. They have a +3 turnover margin on the year and forcing turnovers tomorrow night could be crucial.
Jamie Byrd and Auggie Sanchez are the leading tacklers, with Sanchez averaging nine stops a game and Byrd leading the team in both sacks (5) and tackles for a loss (10) from his "husky" position, a hybrid of safety and linebacker.
With an elimination game comes pressure. Temple has felt it before, albeit in a loss to Notre Dame, but they were up in that one late. No matter how well they're playing right now, USF hasn't felt the pressure of a must-win game yet. While they have an emerging offense and defense, they still could not pull way from an ECU team last week that had only 29 total yards at the half. Temple is light years beyond better than any team the Bulls have played this season and that will be the difference.
Temple 28 - USF 14