Coming off the mini-bye that resulted from their last game on a short week, the Temple Owls (3-3,1-1, AAC) have had plenty of time to ruminate and then recover from the disappointing loss to the Memphis Tigers 34- 27 back on 10/7. This week they hit the road again, down to Orlando FLA, to face the UCF Knights ( 3-2, 1-0), who had a full bye week due to Hurricane Matthew. The last game they played was back on 10/1, a 47-29 W over East Carolina.
Last year on 10/17, the Owls beat UCF 30-16, in a game closer than the final score indicated, but Temple overcame many miscues to do what they did often last season, which was to win games when they were not at their best. The teams have only met 3 times with UCF holding a 2-1 edge.
On offense the Knights are led by two QB’s with SR, Justin Holman, 6-4, 225, (28-68 passing, 368 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) having started three games and FR McKenzie Milton, 5-11, 170 (29-50 passing, 433 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) the other two. Their main target is red-shirt SO. WR Tre-Quan Smith, 6-1, 200 (16 receptions, 221 yards, 2 TDs). The rushing attack is headed up by SR. RB Dontravious Wilson, 5-10, 210 (279 yards rushing, 4.6 avg., 7 TDs), add to that one receiving TD which gives him a team high. As a team UCF averages 232.8 YPG, ranked 4th in the AAC.
Defensively the two teams are pretty evenly matched as the Knights enter Saturday’s contest ranked 4th in the AAC in total defense allowing 350.6 yards per game with Temple just ahead of them allowing 320 yards per game. One player to watch for on the UCF side is SR. CB Shaquill Griffin, 6-1, 200 (15 tackles, 2 INT, 6 pass breakups) who leads the team with 2 interceptions. In last year’s game he got his first career TD on an 81 yd pick six. Also a force is their leading tackler SR. LB Mark Rucker, 5-9, 217 (38 tackles, 24 solo, 4 TFL, 2 sacks). The Owls behind SR. QB Phillip Walker (106-186 passing, 1,415 yds, 8 TDs) are probably going to have to attack this UCF team from the air, as in the Knights 51-14 loss at Michigan, they held them to 119 yds rushing on 41 attempts, but gave up 328 yds passing. At the same time, possibly because of all the passing attempts by their opponents, the Knights are 1st in the AAC in sacks, 3.6 per game, which ranks them 8th nationally.
Fearless Forecast: Temple has yet to win a game on the road, and If they want to return to the conference championship game, these are the kind of road games, against Eastern division rivals that they need to win. As they possibly need to win out the rest of the conference schedule, this could easily be a turning point of the season where a win can make a statement that they are ready to compete in the AAC, and a loss could have them looking for season saving graces in getting to the best bowl game possible, and forward to next year. For this reason I think that Coach Matt Rhule has his team ready to play, and the Owls will eke out a tough mild upset (UCF favored by 4) 27-24, with the replacement for Austin Jones, FR. walk-on Aaron Boumerhi, hitting the winning FG.
TV Broadcast ESPNU, PBP Dave Lamont, Analyst Rene Ingoglia
Radio 97.5 The Fanatic PBP Harry Donahue, Analyst Paul Palmer, Sidelines Harry Mayes