It was nothing short of a heartbreaker last week for the Temple Owls. They had #9 Notre Dame on the ropes. They were at home. They were on the verge of the biggest win in program history: and it slipped through their fingers.
Tonight, the Temple Owls (8-1), ranked #23 in the nation in the College Football Playoff ranking, look to get back to their winning ways as they travel down to Dallas on AAC opponent SMU (1-7).
SMU comes into the game with a solid offense to compliment a decrepit defense. The Mustangs are giving up 43.6 points per game, while allowing 5.6 yards per carry on the ground. Last week, Tulsa ran all over SMU, gaining 179 yards and pounding in four touchdowns. In SMU’s last six contests, the defense has allowed less than 40 points on only one occasion.
This bodes well for a banged up Temple offense that is looking to get back on track. Jahad Thomas, who needs only 96 yards to eclipse 1000 on the season, is questionable with a rib injury, and Matt Rhule said yesterday that AAC’s leading rusher might not play. Center Kyle Friend, the anchor of the offensive line, will be sitting this one out along with wide receiver Kip Patton. If the Owls are going to establish the run, it will have to come behind freshman Ryquell Armstead, who showed glimpses of promise with two touchdowns against Tulane, but since has only gotten eight carries in the last three games.
Much like last week, it’s going to be on P.J. Walker to keep the offense moving. Although the stats might not say it, Matt Rhule thought Walker’s performance against Notre Dame was exceptional. He didn’t commit a turnover for the second straight week, and his 38 yards on the ground showed that his nagging shoulder injury might be fading away. Walker’s reestablished confidence in tucking and running could make for some big plays for the Owls.
The Temple defense, ranking Top-10 nationally in multiple categories, will have a challenge with the SMU offense. At the helm is Junior Matt Davis, a duel threat quarterback that should keep the linebackers on their toes. Davis has been stellar, throwing for 1,779 yards with 14 touchdowns. He also rushing for 450 yards and 7 touchdowns, the most on the team. Given Temple’s success against running backs this year, most recently holding Notre Dame star C.J. Prosise to 40 yards and 1.8 yards per carry, he will be their go to option. Davis has created a dynamic duo with receiver Courtland Sutton. The redshirt freshman has 719 yards and a team high nine touchdowns on the year. His 6-foot-4 frame could pose problems for the secondary, especially with top corner Tavon Young questionable.
A long flight down the Texas, the reverberations of a crushing defeat, and mounting injuries could pose problems for the Temple Owls. SMU has been starting hot all year, outscoring opponents in the 1st quarter. By the same token, letting teams score early has been Temple’s notable weakness in 2015. But the resiliency of this team has been shown time and time again. The Owls are nationally ranked for a reason. Facing an inferior SMU team, the Owls should by flying out of Dallas with a 9-1 record.
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