Before I even get to the keys to the game I should mention that Cincinnati should completely roll Temple on Saturday. The Owls have been a nice story since rejoining the Big East winning their first two conference games of the season but have since fallen off a cliff. They are last in the Big East in scoring defense given up almost 30 points per game, last in rushing defense (162 ypg), and second to last in passing defense (258 ypg). And the story on the offensive side of the ball isn’t much rosier. Temple is second to last in scoring offense (22 ppg) and last in passing offense (132 ypg). The one bright spot has been their rushing attack which is 2nd in the Big East only behind our beloved Bearcats. But otherwise the Owls have been doing next to nothing on offense recently.
Temple’s downward spiral can probably be chalked up to the depth issues they have ran into of late. It’s not like the roster is purely depleted. It’s just that the Owls’ roster is full of MAC level players competing week in and week out against teams full of Big East level players. The talent discrepancy is apparent as the grind of a season takes its toll on Temple.
Because of that and a few other reasons, Cincinnati will almost certainly defeat the Owls but they should stick to the following five keys to ensure that happens.
1) Bottle Up the Running Game
Based on the stats I laid out above, this should be obvious. Temple has a heck of a time passing the ball and scoring points. Whats more they have encountered a quarterback controversy just like the Bearcats with incumbent Chris Coyer and Kevin Newsome splitting reps this week in practice. The difference is that Cincinnati has the luxury of leaning on its strong defense whereas Temple does not. As such, if UC can stop Temple’s rushing attack there’s a good likelihood that the Owls aren’t going to put up many points.
2) Smart Decisions on Special Teams
This starts with the coaching staff and flows right down to the individual players. Against Toledo Jones and crew decided Tony Miliano would start over Pat O’Donnell, who has a history of booting kicks out of the back of the endzone and not provide kickoff returners the opportunity to take it to the house. Well, it burned them. Hopefully the coaches learned from their mistake and will keep O’Donnell plugged into the kickoff role this Saturday. Furthermore it will be up to the individual players to contain Temple runningback Matt Brown who slipped pasted the Cardinals’ special teams unit for a touchdown last weekend and is averaging the 35th most return yards per game. He’s a gamechanger and Cincinnati can’t let him take control on Saturday.
3) Scoring Frenzy
In three straight losses Temple’s defense has allowed opposing teams to score 35, 47, and 45 points. Offenses are simply slicing and dicing the Owls and that problem goes back to the depth issues they have experienced in recent weeks. So there’s no reason Cincinnati’s Big East-best scoring offense can’t roll into Philly and put up similar numbers. No matter who is quarterbacking the Bearcats expect UC to have a solid day on the ground as usual. George Winn and Ralph David Abernathy should be spearheading this attack and get the scoring going quickly. As they wear down Temple’s defense the passing attack should pick up as well and in general Cincinnati should start busting plays open for big gains later in the game. Overall the Owls give up a ton of yards and a ton of points so UC should be cognizant of those facts.
4) Pressure, Pressure, and More Pressure
Temple is a solid running team but the problem is that their defense can’t stop anyone so the offense is forced to lean on its weakest area in order to catch up; the Owls’ passing game. When that happens Chris Coyer, Kevin Newsome, or whoever is tasked at quarterback the team must shoulder the weight of the offense. That’s not Temple football. As had happened in recent weeks the offensive line buckles under the pressure and gives up sacks, a little over two per game. And defenses have a lot of opportunities to get sacks because, again, the Owls are forced to pass more than they’d like. So even without Walter Stewart Cincinnati should feel confident in disrupting Temple’s passing attack if they blitz and continue to do so throughout the game.
5) Stop the Stupid Penalties
For as much as Butch Jones emphasizes smart football and discipline, the Bearcats should do get a lot penalties.6.3 per game to be exact which is the 73rd most of any college football team. But these penalties haven’t necessarily been of the physical variety. Oh yes they’ve gotten called for holds and pass interference but I’ve taken issue with the idiotic mental errors that have forced refs to throw the flag. Like some of the taunting penalties we’ve seen this season or Travis Kelce’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty last week. Temple isn’t very good but there’s no reason to give them extra opportunities to score or prevent Cincinnati from moving the football. Just keep your heads about yourselves, Bearcats. Please?
Big East Games – 2012 Record: 33 – 11 (75.0%) – A clean sweep last week!
UConn vs. Pittsburgh: Both of these teams lead the Big East in sacks allowed. It’s almost a minor miracle that the Panthers actually have a decent passing game with how much Tino Sunseri is knocked around. UConn on the other hand doesn’t seem to understand how to operate an offense in the modern era of football. I guess that’s why you don’t hire a 61 year old coach out of retirement. Panthers get back to winning as the Huskies continue to slide. Pittsburgh 42, UConn 17
Rutgers vs. Army: The Scarlet Knights got a week off to lick their wounds and recover from a drubbing at the hands of Kent State. There is no doubt in my mind that they use that motivation, and their better players, to roll right over the boys from West Point. Rutgers 48, Army 12
Syracuse vs. Louisville: Cincinnati fans should be rooting hard for Syracuse to take down the Louisville Cardinals who have an inside track to a Big East championship and the BCS bowl game. The Orange certainly have the capability of pulling off the upset at home. There’s a lot of things in Syracuse’s favor this Saturday but the logical person in me says the Cardinals continue to roll. UL wins a close one. Louisville 33, Syracuse 31