Start Time: 12:00 p.m. Saturday, November 21
Location: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
Live Stats: Link
Records: #21 Memphis: 8-2 – Temple: 8-2
Line: Memphis -1.5; Over/Under: 58.5.
What might have been? Tomorrow's game between the Temple Owls and Memphis Tigers could have been so much bigger. At their respective peaks, the Tigers were ranked at #15 in the nation, while the Owls reached as high as #21. Obviously, if both came in to this one undefeated, it would be a bigger deal. Instead, both are coming in off disappointing losses. Memphis has lost two straight-the Tigers were flattened by #19 Navy and blew a 20 point lead last week at #24 Houston, losing 35-34-coming in to tomorrow, while the Owls were chewed up by USF 44-23 in a game where Temple could have clinched a spot in the AAC title game in two weeks.
With both teams needing a win to right the ship, there should be no shortage of juice between these two tomorrow afternoon.
Last week's result against USF was many things for Temple. Eye opening is one phrase that comes to mind, as does the word "perplexing." But given the recent trends, it wasn't an anomaly.
Shutting down the opposing offense has been Temple's strong suit all season long, but over the past four weeks, the Owls have given up the following total yardage marks: 378 to ECU, 467 to Notre Dame, 397 to SMU and 556 to USF.
So, what happened to the Owl defense? Part of the reason has to do with the offenses they've faced. The last four teams had the best offenses on Temple's schedule and USF came into last week's game on a hot streak. Still, that doesn't explain why a team that hadn't allowed more than 26 points at any point prior to the last two weeks has suddenly given up 84 points in their last two games. The Owls still have Nagurski finalist Tyler Matakevich, but they must get more out of the rest of the linebackers and defensive line if they want to solve their run stopping problems. Matt Ioannidis, Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike will be at the forefront against an explosive Memphis offense, with their performances going a long way to show what kind of improvement Temple's defense can expect. Sean Chandler will also be looked on in Temple's secondary to try to slow down the Tigers' passing game.
As for Temple's offense, P.J. Walker has stepped up big for the Owls in recent weeks. With Walker and Jahad Thomas, the Owl offense has been run heavy all season. Over the last four weeks though, Walker has thrown for his three highest passing yardage totals (250, 268 and 259) to date. The Memphis defense is geared to stop the run, so expect Walker to keep airing it out tomorrow.
Just where the Tigers are mentally will be key tomorrow against the Owls. The Navy loss was discouraging, but Memphis could rationalize it away by saying they beat themselves with turnovers and penalties. The Houston loss, though, was nothing but demoralizing. Blowing a big lead on the road at undefeated Houston in a game they led throughout, against Houston's backup quarterback no less, has to do some mental damage.
Still, the Tigers have Paxton Lynch, so that can alleviate some symptoms. Lynch threw for 278 yards and two TDs against Houston, while Doroland Dorceus (26 carries, 116 yards, TD) and Phil Mayhue (5 receptions, 43 yards) are some of the Tigers' best weapons. A strong offensive start has been the norm for Memphis this season, and if they can get off to another strong start against the Owls, they should be in good shape.
The Memphis defense has been absolutely problematic during this two game skid. Despite holding the Cougars to their lowest rushing total of the season (96 yards), they gave up 296 yards through the air. Leonard Pegues (12 tackles) and Wynton McManis (four tackles, two sacks) led the way against Houston, and will need to be factors against the Temple rushing attack tomorrow if Memphis wants to have a chance to win.
Records aside, Temple-Memphis is still a matchup of two of the most talented teams in the AAC. Sure, it's disappointing that this isn't a potential championship preview, but with the way Memphis can move the ball and Temple can impose their will on opponents, tomorrow should be pretty entertaining. Both teams are backsliding, specifically the defenses. Temple's defense carried them when they were successful, while the Tigers' success has been predicated on offense. With Temple's defense struggling, they won't be able to counteract Paxton Lynch and the Tiger offense. Thus, Memphis will get back on track with a win over the Owls tomorrow.
Memphis 35 - Temple 17