Conference action is finally here; The Owls v. SMU matchup will be the Owl’s first taste of Conference play within the American Athletic Conference. Temple Football is looking to be 3-1 in their home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, after this week’s matchup against Southern Methodist University. The Owls were victorious for the annual Homecoming game against the Charlotte 49ers by a comfortable score of 48-20.
Last season the Owls made the trip down to SMU and were able to fly back with a 60-40 win. This will be the fifth time that these two schools ar
e facing off. The series is currently tied 1-1-2.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
TEMPLE’S OFFENSE VS. SMU’S DEFENSE:
Phillip Walker and co. were to able to put up 48 points against Charlotte, and last year comfortably put up 60 points against SMU. But the Mustangs’ defense has kept them in some close games so far this season. They held both TCU (21) and Baylor (13) to zero touchdowns in the first half. Although SMU went to lose those two games, Temple should be worried about a strong first half defensive performance from the Mustangs. The Owls have been notorious for being a “one half” team, more often than not a second half team. If Temple’s defense fails them in the first half, and the offense is unable to produce points, the Owl’s may find themselves in a similar situation that they did in Happy Valley. Starting slow is not an option for them, it is too easy to get into a whole that they will not be able to claw out of. SMU’s defense also ranks 34th for scoring in the nation. They are tied for most interceptions in the NCAA, racking up 10 interceptions already this season. Phillip Walker is going to need to be smart and effective if he is going to put the ball in the air. Last season he threw 72% and a total of 268 yards, as well as throwing four touchdowns against the Mustangs. In the past two games he has thrown well over 50% and is seemingly connecting with the rest of the offense. The Owls may have better luck on the ground, SMU ranks 7th in the AAC for rushing defense allowing 148 yards per game. In last year’s matchup Temple’s offense was able to rush 268 yards as well, with three players; Jagar Gardner, Jahad Thomas, and Phillip Walker with 45 or more yards.
SMU’S OFFENSE VS. TEMPLE’S DEFENSE:
The real factor of this game is going to be more focused on Temple’s offense and their ability to put points on the board because SMU’s offense has been somewhat inactive thus far this season. They are dead last for total scoring offense in the American Athletic Conference averaging just under 20 ppg. However, they rank 6th in rushing offense, while Temple is next to last in rushing defense. The Mustangs have four guys that average 50 or more rushing yards a game, and three that average 90 or more. SMU is most likely going to run the ball, despite having a solid passing offense so far this season, the Owl’s rank first in pass defense in the AAC.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
After a 51-yard touchdown in the Owl’s action against Charlotte, Jennings is beginning to show his confidence in receiving. Although he only racked up 13 yards against Penn State, and 123 for the season, he has shown consistency. Jennings is averages roughly 30 yards per game, and is definitely someone to keep an eye on if the Owl’s put the ball in the air.
With the return of Jahad Thomas and his new found versatility, Armstead has been a low key driving force in Temple’s run game. In last week’s matchup, the true sophomore was averaging 6.6 yards on the carry, and averages just under 40 yards per game. Armstead is a great weapon for the Owls to have heading into this matchup, that should leave them open to do pretty much whatever they want offensively.
Last season, Temple’s matchup against SMU is what put Jagar Gardener on fans radar. How could anyone forget his rookie moment of returning a 94 yard kick off? Could playing the Mustangs bring out a spark in this true sophomore? It will be interesting to find out.