Start Time: 11:00 AM Central
Location: TDECU Stadium, Houston, Texas
Weather: 57 degrees with 0% chance of rain
Live Stats: here.
Line: Houston -6
On Saturday morning, the Temple Owls will go for their first conference championship in almost fifty years and their first New Year’s Day bowl game since 1935.
Either way one of them will be ending a drought with a win in the first AAC conference championship.
With both teams looking for a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game so what will it take to separate these two teams?
When the Cougars have the Ball
Houston rolls into this one after hanging half a hundred on a Navy defense that hadn’t allowed that many points to any opponent all season.
One of the heroes of last week’s game was running back Brandon Wilson who brought a late season spark to the Cougars running game in his first offensive start. Houston hopes to get a similar output from Wilson and the return of workhorse Kenneth Farrow.
The Cougars are led on offense by quarterback Greg Ward, who is the only quarterback in the country with over 2,500 yards passing and 800 yards rushing. Ward continued piling up the yards last week, manipulating the Midshipmen defense with his arm and legs helping the Cougars convert an incredible 16 of 19 third downs.
That will be tough for the Cougars to match this week going against an Owls team that comes into the game ranked twelfth defensively on third down.
Houston will try to stay ahead of the chains with moderate gains on first and second down in order to keep third down more manageable, which could also prove tough since the Owls are number one in the conference in tackles for a loss with over eight a game.
The Temple defense is equally on a roll having given up only fifteen points in their last two outings, including only three points to the UConn team that handed the Cougars their only loss of the year.
When the Owls have the Ball
Temple is led on offense by third year starter, quarterback PJ Walker. Walker is the Owls career leader in passing touchdowns and will most likely break the record for completions (he needs eight) sometime on Saturday.
Walker’s favorite target is senior receiver Robby Anderson whose size could give the Cougars secondary issues.
While the Owls rank at or near the top of most categories defensively, the Cougars are no slouch.
The Cougars managed to shut down the Navy triple option on the ground last week holding them to their second lowest output on the ground of the season. While the Cougars managed to corral the triple option last week, sometimes that offense can lead to a weeklong hangover for the defense.
For the Cougars to win on Saturday it will come down to their thirteenth ranked rush defense stopping the Owls running back Jahad Thomas. Thomas has a compact, shifty running style similar to that of UConn’s Arkeel Newsome who rushed for over 100 yards and gave Houston fits just a few weeks ago.
The only difference is that Thomas has been much more effective this season than Newsome so it will be up to the Cougars to make adjustments.
After both Houston and Temple came out of last Saturday with convincing wins, each head coach spent the week reassuring their players that they would be there for this weekend’s matchup.
With the game focused between the lines, the Cougars will have their work cut out for them against the number one scoring defense in the AAC. On offense for the Owls, Walker will be looking to continue his stellar run and improve his dreadful stat line from last year’s game.
This one stays close through the half but the Cougars continue their second half dominance and win this one 38-24 and most likely end up in the Peach Bowl.
And Tom Herman’s bank account adds a few more zeroes.