Cincinnati (6-2) at Temple (3-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lincoln Financial Field (68,532) -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Television: RSN. Home Record: Cincinnati 5-0, Temple 2-2. Away Record: Cincinnati 0-2, Temple 1-3. Neutral Record: Cincinnati 1-0, Temple 0-0. Conference Record: Cincinnati 2-1, Temple 2-3 Series Record: Temple leads 9-4-1.
GAME NOTES: The Temple Owls will hope that a return to Lincoln Financial Field can help remedy a recent losing skid, but the Owls will have to be wary of a high-powered Cincinnati Bearcats squad, as the teams clash in Big East play this weekend.
Losing back-to-back games at the end of October had Cincinnati reeling a bit, but with a 35-24 win at home over Syracuse last weekend the Bearcats have avoided sliding even further. The win puts the Bearcats at 2-1 in conference play, keeping them in competition for the Big East title, although it is undefeated Louisville's to lose at the moment. Playing on the road may not be helpful in keeping the Bearcats in contention as both of Cincinnati's losses have come on the road.
Rewind to Oct. 20. Temple was coming off of back-to-back wins in its first two conference games and was giving then No. 19 Rutgers all it could handle, leading 10-0 at halftime at home. It looked like the Owls might be on the way to a shocking return to the Big East. Fast forward to today and the Owls have lost three straight games, including to Rutgers, all by at least 25 points. It is the first three-game losing streak for the Owls since 2008 when Temple finished 5-7.
Cincinnati was not a member of the Big East when the Owls made their departure from the conference in 2004. So this game marks the first time these two teams have met as conference foes. In the previous 14 matchups it has been Temple that has reigned supreme with a 9-4-1 record against the Bearcats. However the last time these squads met, in 2003, Cincinnati pulled out a 30-24 win in triple overtime at Nippert Stadium.
Munchie Legaux has really been on a downward slide in terms of his passing in recent weeks for Cincinnati. The dual-threat quarterback threw for a season- low 124 yards while completing an even 50 percent of his passes in the win over Syracuse. Legaux has now completed 50 percent of his passes in three straight games while reaching above only 200 yards in that time. Also alarming is the amount of times he has turned the ball over with six interceptions during the three game stretch. He had only three total in the team's first five games.
Unfortunately Legaux's struggles to throw the ball have also coincided with a season-long issue on the ground. After rushing for 117 yards in week one, Legaux has rushed for more than 40 yards in a game just once. Legaux's issues running the ball have largely gone unnoticed thanks to the stellar play of George Winn. The Bearcats starting running back has been piling up yards all season and is coming off a season-high 165-yard, thee-touchdown performance against Syracuse. Winn also threw a touchdown pass in the game in what was one of the most talked about plays in college football this past weekend. Overall Winn has rushed for 897 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ralph David Abernathy has been a solid backup for Winn, although Winn's durability has limited Abernathy's production (53 attempts, 301 yards, 3 TDs).
Tight end Travis Kelce was the man on the other side of Winn's jump-pass for a touchdown last weekend and a second touchdown pass from backup quarterback Brendon Kay. Kelce had a season-high 77 yards receiving in the game jumping him to the top of the leader boards among Cincinnati receivers in yards (385) and touchdowns (4) despite making only 19 receptions. Kenbrell Thompkins (23 receptions, 338 yards) is the leader in terms of receptions while Abernathy has been used largely in passing situations with 19 receptions for 244 yards and three scores.
Cincinnati has been fortunate on defense this season allowing opposing teams to score just 19.9 points per game despite ranking sixth in the conference in total defense (389.9 ypg). It's been a bit of a bend without breaking approach on defense for the Bearcats. Although they give up a fair amount of yards the Bearcats really tighten up in crucial spots, ranking second in the conference in both opponents third down conversion (36.2 percent) and red zone conversion rate (73.1 percent).
The defensive unit for the Bearcats has had to move on with the loss of top pass rusher Walter Stewart (5.0 sacks) over the last few weeks. Stewart is suffering from a spinal injury from mid-October and is done for the season. Thus far no player has been able to step up and make up for his lack of production, with Dan Giordano and John Williams each recording 2.5 sacks. Greg Blair has been a solid tackler all season with 83, the second most in the conference.
Week-in and week-out opponents know that Temple will struggle to throw the ball yet the Owls have been unable to remedy that. The Owls are the worst passing team in the Big East and the fourth worst in the nation. Without any semblance of an effective aerial attack the Owls are also dead last in the conference in total offense (296.3 ypg).
Head coach Steve Addazio has thus started to look beyond starter Chris Coyer giving Clifford "Juice" Granger time in each of the last three games. Granger had a season-high seven pass attempts against Louisville last week after Coyer completed just 2-of-8 passes for 20 yards. For the time being, Coyer will still get the majority of snaps but its likely that Granger will continue to see time if the passing game can't get going.
What has been reliable for the Owls this season has been the run game, specifically Boston College-transfer Montel Harris. The former All-ACC back has been stellar after a slow start. He has rushed for 553 of his 578 total rushing yards and all five touchdowns this season in the last five games including a 115-yard, one-score effort against Louisville. Harris was the only bright spot in the game for the offense as the Owls managed only 309 yards of total offense, 255 of which came on the ground.
Only three players have caught 10 or more passes this season led by Jalen Fitzpatrick (22, 291 yards) although he was held without a reception against Louisville.
On the defensive side of the ball Temple has been regressing as the season wears on. The Owls were absolutely lit up by Louisville's offense last week, surrendering 508 total yards, including 338 through the air. In all Temple is ranked last in the conference in total defense (420.3 ypg) and scoring defense (29.9 ppg). In fact Temple is the only team in the conference giving up more than 400 yards of total offense per game this season.
Tyler Matakevich has carved out a permanent spot for himself in the linebacking rotation. After he did not have one tackle in two of the first three games. the freshman has recorded double-digit tackle totals in five straight games. His 66 tackles this season are a team-high. Nate Smith (60 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks) has also been a tackling machine and the team's best option to get to the quarterback.
For a little while it looked like Temple might actually stun people with a successful run in its first season back in the Big East. Reality has set in though as the Owls are too one-dimensional on offense and not strong enough on defense to compete this season. Cincinnati's offense is too good to be slowed by the Owls in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 33, Temple 17
11/07 10:40:32 ET