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Defining Moment: SMU vs Temple

Every season a team has a defining game or two that can set the tone for the future. This is that game.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

You may be asking yourself why the Temple Owls should even roll out of bed for their trip down to Dallas.  SMU has been horawful (a mix between "horrible" and "awful" that was first coined by Shaquille O'Neal).

Temple had a very admirable showing on the big stage that is College Gameday losing to Notre Dame the week before 24-20.  They should be in good spirits even with the loss.

Temple has seemed like one of the Underdog teams of destiny, a potential playoff sniffer, a New Year's bowl contender.  What happens to a team when they lose the carrot at the end of the stick?

What To Expect from SMU

SMU on the other hand, can't falter any further.  Sure they had a solid showing against Tulsa.  But Tulsa's defense is made out of 1-ply toilet paper.  Against any formidable defense (for example USF) the SMU Mustangs fail to even get the bat off their shoulder.  Even when they put together a decent offensive showing, turnovers start happening.  SMU thus far this season has lost twelve fumbles.  Twelve!  They're tied with Middle Tennessee State for the most fumbles lost in D-1 college football.

However, their passing game is still no slouch when it gets going.  They rank in the top-50 in the nation in passing yards with 253.1 a game.  However 69th in scoring.  The turnovers wouldn't be such a big deal if Quarterback Matt Davis and stud freshman Courtland Sutton could start turning those yards into points.  Their leading rusher is also, guess who, Matt Davis.

There seems to be no help from running back Xavier Jones is averaging 4.1 yards-per-carry but has averaged 3.4 and 3.6 yards-per-carry whenever a decent defense is put on the field the last two games against USF and Tulsa.  That needs to change to get the pressure off of Davis, who is admirably sitting at 2,229 total yards of offense with 21 touchdowns total this year.  But solely relying on your quarterback for all of your team's offense tends to not end very well.

The simple truth is that SMU is going to have to outscore Temple to have any kind of shot at winning this game. Even a solid showing against one of the premier programs in college football would help to give Mustang fans a glimmer of hope.  The defense will have to have their best showing of the season or Temple will have their way all night.

Brian Mason Prediction: Temple 35 - SMU 10

What To Expect From Temple

The big question heading into tomorrow night is this: will Temple have a hangover from last week?

The Owls were the toast of the town last week against Notre Dame, and hung right with the #8 Fighting Irish before coming up just short in the end.  Temple certainly showed that they can compete with anybody and that they belong.  That said, no matter how good Temple looked last week, they can’t afford to take SMU lightly.  If last week taught us anything, it’s that Matt Rhule and staff do a fantastic job of getting their team ready to play.  The Owls are disciplined and experienced, so even though there will naturally be a bit of an emotional comedown from last week, they’ll shake that off quickly.

On the national stage, the Temple defense (first in the conference, allowing 327.6 yards per game) really shined.  They held the Irish–one of the best offenses in the country–at bay as long as they could, well below Notre Dame’s scoring average on the season.  They forced two red zone turnovers, but fell victim to some big plays.  The heart and soul of the defense, Tyler Matakevich, had the game of his life with 13 tackles and a pick.  He’ll again be central to the Temple defense against a Mustang squad that can certainly put up points.  The Owl secondary, led by Sean Chandler, Alex Wells and Tavon Young, will need to be cognizant of SMU QB Matt Davis, who is averaging 7.3 yards per pass attempt and has a 14-4 touchdown to interception ratio.  He’s also rushed for seven TDs on the ground, but with Matakevich, Matt Ioanndis (8.5 TFL) and Jarred Alwan (5.75 tackles per game) patrolling the line of scrimmage, don’t expect much out of the SMU rushing attack.

Offensively, it’s still the Jahad Thomas and P.J. Walker show for the Owls.  Thomas rushed for only 93 yards last week, but showed his gamebreaking speed against one of the more athletic defenses in the country.  Walker was also solid, throwing for 188 yards and a score and rushing for 38 yards.   The offense is a little banged up coming off the Notre Dame game.  Given the state of the Mustang defense (nonexistent, they give up 524.4 yards per game), the Owls even at less than 100% shouldn’t have any trouble scoring.

Brian Harper Prediction: Temple 31 – SMU 17