The Temple Owls and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons are set to battle in the Military Bowl Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Owls (10-3, 7-1 AAC) secured their second straight 10-win season with a win over Navy in the AAC Championship game while the Demon Deacons (6-6, 3-5 ACC) made a three-win improvement under head coach Dave Clawson’s third year.
Despite the overall positivity of their respective seasons, the circumstances for each team heading into this game are far from ideal.
Temple’s run of success earned head coach Matt Rhule national acclaim, with rumors tying him to many head coaching vacancies. He ended up leaving for Baylor and will be taking multiple key assistants with him. Director of Football Operations Ed Foley is serving as interim head coach.
Wake Forest started the year 5-1, with solid wins over Duke, Indiana, and Syracuse. But the Deacs stumbled down the stretch, losing five of their last six including a loss to Boston College at home in the regular season finale.
To make matters worse, Wake Forest has been embroiled in a scandal involving its own radio announcer, a former coach and player for the team, giving information about their offensive strategy to opposing teams.
#WakeyLeaks (link: http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2016/12/14/13959636/wake-forest-football-leak-coach-announcer) has been a story unlike any other—multiple ACC schools are confirmed as having received stolen information. While the scandal doesn’t directly affect anything on the field, the distraction brings an unnecessary cloud of negative attention to bowl preparation.
This will be the second-ever meeting between these two teams, with the first occurring back in 1930, a 36-0 Owls victory. This year’s contest could see another Temple blowout as this team appears to be firing on all cylinders having won seven straight and nine of its last ten. It’s no surprise that Temple is a 13-point favorite in this matchup.
They may be without Rhule, but the Owls still have QB Philip (formerly known as P.J.) Walker and RB Jahad Thomas, two seniors who will be looking to end their careers on a high note. Walker threw for 2899 yards and 20 touchdowns while displaying mastery of Temple’s run-first spread offense.
Thomas led the team in rushing yards with 922, adding 426 receiving yards on his way to 19 total touchdowns. His backfield mate, Ryquell Armstead, is no slouch either. The bruising sophomore posted 918 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
Football Outsiders’ S&P+ efficiency ratings list Temple as the 18th-best team in the country while Wake Forest is 72nd. Both teams are solid on defense, but Temple’s is better (9th vs. 28th) and the Owls also boast an above-average FBS offense, rated 64th in efficiency and 43rd in points per game.
Wake Forest on the other hand, has one of the worst offenses in the country—the scoring offense ranks 120th out of 128. It has been dependent on the running game, with three rushers over 500 yards, including dual-threat quarterback John Wolford. Temple should be able to contain them, and should have the advantage of both sides of the ball.
The AAC has not fared well in bowl season this year (1-4 so far) or in the past. Though it isn’t the best measure of conference power, bowl performance still sways public perception and unfortunately the American has mostly failed to answer that call. Two New Year’s bowl wins help, but given the performance so far this year the conference could really use this win.
Be sure to follow @UnderdogDynasty on Twitter for live coverage of the game!
Aman Kidwai is the manager of The UConn Blog. His team isn’t bowling so he had some time to spare during this most wonderful time of the year. He’s doing this for love of the game and, of course, because #AmericanRising.