Temple's season got off to a rocking start, with a big win over Penn State followed by a close win against a Cincinnati team which was expected to be a conference leader. After an impressive opening, Temple was the first team in the conference to make waves nationally this season.
The Owls won their next four without too much difficulty heading into a tough two-game stretch against East Carolina on a Thursday before a matchup with highly-ranked Notre Dame.
After coming from behind to beat East Carolina and stay undefeated, Temple hosted Notre Dame in what has to have been the most highly-anticipated regular season game involving an American Athletic Conference team in the conference's short history. The Owls fought hard but ultimately fell, 24-20, taking their first loss of the season.
Temple rebounded with a 60-40 win over SMU, but nobody could have predicted what happened in the next game at South Florida, as the Bulls wallopped the Owls, 44-23. USF had looked solid, but unspectacular, going into this game with a 6-4 record. But after destroying Cincinnati this past weekend for its third straight win, Willie Taggart's squad seems to have hit its stride.
Once again, Temple picked up the pieces after a loss, this time grabbing a victory over Memphis- handing the Tigers their third straight defeat. 14 second quarter points kept the Owls ahead for most of the game, and then a 17-point fourth quarter put it away for good.
In that win, quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns. He added 49 yards on the ground and was part of a five-man crew which helped Temple put up 200 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Robby Anderson, the team's leading receiver on the season, caught five passes for 80 yards.
Temple's defense held an otherwise potent Memphis offense to just 12 points. They helped Temple achieve a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession and allowed only 232 yards of offense.
UConn, which has relied on big plays offensively and the prowess of its defense (short fields after turnovers, a timely defensive TD, forcing numerous short drives) to put up points lately, will be facing the best defense on its schedule. If the Huskies are going to score enough to win on the road then special teams, defense and the "exotics" (trick plays) will need to play a featured role once more.
Since both teams play in the American East division, UConn and Temple have had many opponents in common this season: Cincinnati, Tulane, East Carolina, Central Florida and USF. In those five games, UConn's record is 3-2 while Temple's is 4-1. The real difference-makers there are Temple's two-score win over Cincinnati, who beat the crap out of UConn at home, and South Florida, who the Huskies played fairly close despite losing.
So what does it all mean? Temple is a pretty good team, one which Bob Diaco called the toughest team UConn will face all season besides Navy (sorry Houston). The Owls have beaten some of the best teams in the conference, and competed well against one of the best teams in the country.
If the UConn defense, which has been playing absurdly well as of late, can hold up then the Huskies should be able to stay in this one. Like every week, it will depend on what we can get out of the offense. Unlike every week, one of the best defenses in the country will be on the other side.
Temple has opened as 12.5 point favorites. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.