Temple football is ascendant. UCF football is in a crater. It's a virtual certainty that each team's "perfect" record will continue on Saturday (which is to say, UCF ought to fall to 0-7 and Temple ought to move on to 6-0).
The inimitable Bill C's Week 7 S&P+ Picks post has Temple's win probability at 97.4%.
So you're saying there's a chance.
Start time: 7:30 PM, EST
TV: CBS Sports Network
Location: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.
Radio: 96.9-FM & 740-AM - Orlando
Betting Line: Temple is a 21.5 point favorite. That's being kind to the hapless Knights.
The Series: UCF is 2-0 against Temple, including, of course J.J. Worton's famous catch in 2013:
Last year, UCF jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead and cruised to a 34-14 win at home.
Temple Outlook: AAC East Leader Temple should clearly cruise against division bottom-dweller UCF. Temple has looked very good this year, especially in early season wins against Penn State and Cincinnati.
The defense has really been stellar. They boast a success rate of 31.3%, good for tenth best in the nation. Opposing teams have averaged only 14.4 points per game against the Temple defense. And they've stifled opposing run games, to the tune of allowing only 97.2 yards per game (eleventh best in the country).
Statistically, the Owls' offense has not impressed. Temple is putting up an average of 195.8 yards passing and 151.8. And Temple's runs have been stuffed far more often than they should be (don't worry Owls fans - UCF is not in any position to take advantage of this or anything else). But Temple has enjoyed excellent field position thanks to its special teams play and defense.
The trio of QB PJ Walker, RB Jahad Thomas and WR Robby Anderson stands out for Temple on offense. Walker has looked great overall this year, and has thrown for 914 yards, 7 TDs, and 2 INTs. Thomas, a converted defensive back, has established himself as one of the best running backs in the conference. And Anderson is the team's leading receiver with 220 yards and 4 TDs.
UCF Outlook: Well, the Knights aren't the worst team in the FBS (North Texas Mean Green, step on up and bring that 66-7 loss to Portland State with you, please!). But they are close to it. There's little good to say about the Knights and even less argument why they might be able to win.
Last week, we were hopeful the Knights would be buoyed by the return of QB Justin Holman (who had been injured since the first series against Stanford in Week 2) and Junior RB Dontravious Wilson.
Wilson played sparingly, with some time on special teams, a couple of catches, and no carries. Holman was a dreadful 27/50 for 255 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. I remain a firm believer in Holman, who looked like the bright spot of the team in Week 1 action against FIU, and who had some terrific moments last year. But whether it was due to "rust" or still recovering from injury, everything for Holman was out of sorts last week against UConn (and it was the second year in a row that the Huskies had Holman's number). Given the state of the offensive line and the wide receiving corps, there's no reason why things should look better against the Owl's superior defense.
That's a UCF theme for this year really: there's no reason to believe things will improve until next season.
Sure, Coach George O'Leary is now focused solely on coaching, having abandoned the interim AD gig that he had held simultaneously. But GOL appears very much a head coach who delegates, and was insistent when he took it that the interim AD job would not take so much time as to be a distraction. So it seems unlikely that an increase in football focus will bring improvement on the field.
Knights fans, your best bet to avoid driving yourselves crazy is to focus on the young players getting great early opportunities on the field, and hope that this will translate to a solid and experienced team in a couple years. The Knights have now played 71% of their 2015 signing class and fourteen current or former walk-ons this year. And yes, one of the latter accounted for the safety the Knights gave up to UConn when he left the end zone, stepped back in, and knelt down.
But still. Hope for the future. Amiright?