On December 5th, two American Athletic Conference teams will meet for the inaugural AAC Championship game.
With a win tonight, Temple will be locked in as one of those two teams.
After a 60-40 shootout win over SMU, the #22 Temple Owls once again hit the road and will take on USF in Tampa, Florida at 7:00 tonight.
The Bulls come into the game with a 5-4 record, but have fallen just short in some tough contests. Three of USF’s four losses have come at the hands of Top-25 teams, including AAC West contenders Navy and Memphis.
Winning their last 4 of 5, the offense boasts a strong rushing attack. Running back Marlon Mack has rushed for 835 yards and four touchdowns. He will team up with Darius Tice, who has added 313 yards and four touchdowns of his own this season. The two combined for a total 159 yards in a win last week over East Carolina, a team that held Temple’s Jahad Thomas, the AAC’s leading rusher, to only 66 yards.
For the second straight week, Temple will have to stack up against a duel threat quarterback.
The Owls had trouble last week containing SMU’s Matt Davis. The defense allowed a season high 40 points as Davis rushed for 107 yards and touchdown. USF’s Quinton Flowers has thrown for over 1400 yards on the season and 12 TDs, but compliments that with a stout running game. He rushed for over 650 yards and 7 TDs this season. Flowers has shown the ability to explode, as four weeks ago he erupted for 201 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a win over UConn.
Tyler Matakevich, needing only 13 tackles to reach the 100 mark for the 4th straight year, and Nate D. Smith, who accumulated a team high 6.5 sacks in 2015, will be instrumental in shutting down both Flowers and Mack.
In the secondary, Tavon Young and Sean “Champ” Chandler will be tasked with locking down junior Rodney Adams. Adams hauled in 95 yards and a touchdown in USF’s win last week, pushing his total to six on the year. A playmaker on the outside, he also is the forefront of special teams unit that is first in the AAC in punt and kick return average.
The defense will be tested, and the offense will have to respond as well. Temple roared past SMU last week with 60 points, but the Mustangs’ defense was nothing to write home about. The Bulls, on the other hand, have been effective on the defensive side. It starts with the front seven, who have allowed on 3.7 yards per carry to opposing offenses, and are 12th in the nation in tackles for loss. Thomas and Ryquell Armstead will have trouble countering that, as Temple is still without center Kyle Friend.
USF is also solid against the pass, allowing only 11 receiving touchdowns this year. P.J. Walker,
who tallied five scores last week with zero turnovers, will have to reverse that trend. He’ll have Robby Anderson and and emerging Ventell Bryant at his disposal. The two combined for 167 yards and two touchdowns last week, and are looking more and more in sync each with the junior quarterback.
”This is a championship caliber game against a championship caliber team,” Coach Matt Rhule said Tuesday. USF is ready to put Temple’s championship hopes on hold. Coming in hot, the Bulls have the talent to slow P.J. Walker and the offense while exploiting the defense. The second straight game on the road will be no cakewalk; Temple has had a knack this year for making it close. However, with postseason implications and a reality check last week, the Owls should be able to come out of Florida with a 9-1 record and a spot in that championship game.