The Temple Owls have been a revelation in the AAC, as few expected this type of dominance from the boys from North Broad. Where the Owls are dominating is throughout their defense. It starts with senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich who has earned All-AAC Player of the Week honors the past two weeks. He's exuded moxie and leadership traits necessary in a vocal leader who also produces on the field. Matakevich isn't focused on accolades or individual statistics, he's determined to defeat his next opponent; the UMass Minutemen. Matakevich spoke highly of Temple's opponent:
"They're good. They got a bunch of good skill players. Their quarterback is really, really good.We definitely got our hands full. We're just going to prepare the best that we can and just get ready for them."
In the secondary, safety Alex Wells is one week removed from a breakout game. The sophomore picked off Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel twice in the second half and gives head coach Matt Rhule confidence in a potent secondary. After a rocky start to his career as the lead of the Owls in 2013, Rhule has had a fundamentally sound campaign this year preaching about preparation and focus while getting his players to compete. Like Matakevich, Rhule raved about UMass, referring to QB Blake Frohnapfel and wide receiver Tajae Sharpe as legitimate NFL prospects while praising UMass coach Mark Whipple.
After making the jump to FBS competition, the Minutemen have continued to challenge teams in the MAC and are looking for their signature campaign. Here is someone with extensive knowledge of their football team. Michael Traini covers the UMass Minutemen on Hustle Belt and was nice enough to answer some questions about what to expect Saturday.
Underdog Dynasty: Blake Frohnapfel isn't a name many CFB fans recognize. What's special about him as a QB?
MT: Frohnapfel is such an interesting case because he went from 3-year backup to 1st team All-MAC when he transferred from Marshall to UMass. his best asset is probably his head: he's such a smart kid with a high football IQ that his decision-making is traditionally very good. It seems he had a bit of first game jitters against Colorado but UMass fans hope those have worked themselves out. Frohnapfel can also make all the throws, from the quick timing patterns to the deep balls. He'll need to make them against this Temple defense.
Underdog Dynasty: UMass played opponents close last season, was the 48-14 loss to Colorado something to look over?
MT: The Colorado game should be looked at as a bit of an aberration because the team usually plays much better than that, even in games they end up losing. They started a week later than everyone else, and they may have been just a little overconfident heading into Boulder, which is not something you want to have happen. Maybe a little too much pre-season hype. Given the sobering nature of their performance you can be sure that won't happen again. Though all bets are off if their front seven on defense does not get better after last weekend. Jahad Thomas could for 250 if that doesn't improve.
Underdog Dynasty: Will Tajae Sharpe take over against the Tavon Young-Sean Chandler combo?
MT: Tajae is probably the best receiver in the MAC and is a legitimate mid-round NFL draft pick as it stands now. He gets everyone's best coverages and still manages to put up impressive numbers every week. He caught 11 balls for 138 yards against Colorado and you can expect more of the same on Saturday, especially coming off of a loss. He didn't get in the end zone against Colorado and he will be really looking to score in the home opener. Tavon Young and Sean Chandler are very good, but there is always a game plan to get Tajae the ball as often as possible. He will be a major factor on Saturday.
Underdog Dynasty: Who could step up that people aren't talking about on UMass?
MT: Keep an eye on WR Marken Michel. He's a weapon UMass deploys all over the field and is very quick and shifty. His brother Sony Michel plays for the Georgia Bulldogs and the athleticism runs in the family. He could see touches from the backfield as well as a wideout. Also, true freshman RB Sekai Lindsay is another name to watch. He was set to travel to Colorado however his physical showed he carries the sickle-cell trait, which is exacerbated at high altitudes so he stayed home. He was very impressive in training camp earning a lot of praise from the coaches. He should see time on Saturday in the rotation.
Underdog Dynasty: What needs to happen for the upset to culminate?
MT: The main thing that needs to happen for UMass to pull an upset here is for their defense, specifically their front seven to flip the script completely from the Colorado game. They need to not only stop the run, they need to pressure the quarterback as well. Jahad Thomas will eat them alive if they play like they did against the Buffs. Frohnapfel and the offense will also need to take care of the ball against Temple. The Owls are masters at causing turnovers and if Frohnapfel throws four INTs like gunner Kiel then this is another Temple victory easy. If UMass can win the turnover battle, then things could be very different.
Underdog Dynasty: What is the final score Saturday?
MT: As much as I would love to predict a UMass upset victory here. Temple is playing at too high a level to begin the season to warrant something like that. I think UMass will be much better in this game, and it will be close, but I'd have to say 28-21 Temple wins.
You can watch the Temple-UMass game at 3:00 p.m. ET on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN App.