With Cincinnati’s nightmarish loss to South Florida on Saturday night firmly in the rear view mirror, we finally can move forward and focus on the Temple Owls. A longstanding program that went through some rough times (two decades worth), Temple experienced a bit of a golden age under head coach Al Golden*. He turned a then perennial bottomfeeder of basically all of college football into the class of the Mid-American Conference, bringing a run-heavy offense that was complimented nicely with a stingy defense. The MAC didn’t know what hit them.
*Fun with puns!
But Temple is three years removed from Golden, who is now coaching the Miami Hurricanes. After his departure, in stepped Steve Addazio who helped the Owls program stay the course in his first season before floundering in their “first” year in the Big East. But, like Golden, he too left for greener pastures, accepting the Boston College head coaching job after last season. In stepped Matt Rhule but four years with three different coaches appears to finally be catching up to the Owls. They have yet to win a game this season and look to be heading for their worst campaign in years.
As of now the Bearcats are about three touchdown favorites over Temple and for good reason. If you peruse the following breakdown of the Owls and notice that it reads almost exactly like the breakdown of South Florida, that’s because it does. But that doesn’t mean Cincinnati should sleepwalk through this game like they did against the Bulls, otherwise a similar outcome will occur.
Temple is gosh darn terrible on offense. But this has never really been a program that built itself around winning games with a flurry of touchdowns being tossed around. Like I mentioned, since the Golden age they’ve won with a pounding running game and a stout defense. This year is no different. The Owls boast a two-headed rushing attack with Kenneth Harper (250 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns) and Zaire Williams (218 yards rushing, 0 touchdowns) moving the chains.
The problem with Temple, as has been in the past, is poor quarterback play and non-existent playmakers on the outside. Signal caller Connor Reilly has been average this season, passing for 771 yards and two touchdowns. But he’s only completing 52% of his passes and has thrown two picks this year as well. Those numbers aren’t going to scare too many defences, who likely stack the box to stop Harper and Williams from the onset.
One of the main issues with Temple this season is that their formula for success is only half-working on the football field. The running game has been solid but the defense hasn’t stopped anyone this year. The Owls are giving up 518 yards per game on defense. Now, to their credit, they’ve faced some pretty solid offensive attacks in Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame squad, the Houston Cougars, and the Louisville Bridgewaters. But they allowed friggen Idaho to gash them for 470 yards of total offense.
What’s interesting is that even though Temple has allowed teams to march up and down the field on them, they’re only allowing about 27 points per game, good for 69th nationally. The reason, it appears, is their stout redzone defense. Opponents have scored just eight touchdowns on their 26 trips to the Owls’ redzone. 13 have resulted in field goals. No wonder Temple’s opponents yardage is so freakishly high yet point total is suspiciously low.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND PREDICTION
The Bearcats get Temple at the Nippert on Friday night, just about the worst possible situation for the Owls to walk into. Cincinnati is darn near unbeatable on their home turf and especially during games at night when the stadium turns into a hornets’ nest. Like South Florida, UC should win this game. All signs point to them coming out on top on Friday night. I think they will but it won’t be the shellacking that I would have expected before the season began.