The Temple Owls return to action this week coming off of a BYE after their exciting homecoming win against a ranked Cincinnati squad about 2 weeks ago. The Owls opponent this week, #9 ranked UCF is also coming off of a BYE.
This Thursday, Temple has the opportunity to take sole possession of first place within the AAC standings. The Owls have won the last 5 out of 6 games on its schedule and is currently undefeated in conference play at 4-0. The Owls will certainly have its work cut out for them on Thursday though. The UCF Knights started the 2018 season with 7 straight victories. UCF enters this game against Temple still holding the nation’s longest winning streak at 20 games. The 20 games is a UCF and American Athletic Conference record. UCF is one of four remaining undefeated teams in all of FBS. The other unbeaten teams are Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame.
Temple’s defense, which has been a strength for the Owls this season, will need to have its best performance on Thursday against a team that is arguably the toughest opponent it will face all year. UCF is currently fifth in the nation in scoring offense (44.4ppg) and sixth in the nation in total offense (537.1ypg) with 276 of those yards coming through the air. The Temple Owls passing defense is currently ranked fourth in the country allowing only 147.5 yards per game. Additionally, the Owls defense is ranked fourth in the nation in yards per play (4.17) and fouth in the nation in redzone defense.
This season, Temple has found ways to score in different areas of the game. The Owls have a non-offensive touchdown in six of eight games played this season. Temple will need to capitalize on any such opportunities during this game against UCF on Thursday night.
The keys to a Temple victory this week will be to limit the turnovers. In the victory against Cincinnati on October 20th, the Owls threw 3 interceptions to Bearcats defenders. In the last 5 games combined, Temple has turned the ball over 11 times. UCF has created at least one turnover in each of its first 7 games, including 5 during the team’s last outing against ECU. The Knights are currently ranked 7th in the nation in turnovers gained with 18 and they have not lost the turnover battle in a game this season.
Temple’s defense will need to come up big, and from an offensive standpoint Anthony Russo will need to limit the turnovers and play his best game of the season. Against Cincinnati, Russo went 20-41 for 237 yards and three touchdowns against a top five ranked defense. Russo has started the last five games for Temple and he has thrown for 1410 yards and nine touchdowns.
I also look for Ryquell Armstead to have a great night on Thursday if he is fully healthy. The senior RB is currently listed as a game-time decision. Armstead sat out during the last two games due to an ankle injury suffered in the victory against ECU, but with an extra week of rest from the BYE, some expect him to be ready to go. This season, Armstead has rushed for 626 yards on 122 carries with 6 touchdowns. I also expect WRs Ventell Bryant and Isaiah Wright to have huge impacts in this game if Temple expects to win.
Temple is 1-1 when playing UCF in Florida and the last time these two teams played in Orlando was on October 15th, 2016. Temple won that game by a score of 26-25. In this game, Temple was down 25-7 in the second quarter however the Owls found a way to battle back and wound up scoring the game winning touchdown with one second left.
Temple’s next three games will be a tough stretch for the owls. Temple faces opponents who are a combined 21-2 heading into Week 10 action. After this contest against UCF the Owls will travel to Texas to face #17 ranked Houston.
Temple and UCF are set to meet this Thursday night on ESPN at 7:30pm EST.