FACTS & STATS: Site: Lincoln Financial Field (68,532) -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Television: None. Home Record: Army 2-2, Temple 0-3. Away Record: Army 0-2, Temple 0-3. Neutral Record: Army 1-0, Temple 0-0. Conference Record: Army 0-0, Temple 0-3. Series Record: Temple leads, 6-4.
GAME NOTES: Seeking to avoid their worst start since 2006, the Temple Owls will be back at home to take on the Army Black Knights in a non-conference matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.
Army has enjoyed its most successful stretch of the season over the last three weeks, with wins in two of the last three games. The most recent victory was a 50-25 rout of Eastern Michigan in West Point that improved the Black Knights to 3-4 overall. However, away from home, Army has dropped both decisions this season. That is bad news for a team that plays four of its final five games on the road.
The Black Knights' road struggles pale in comparison to the issues that have plagued Temple. The Owls lost 38-20 last Friday night against Cincinnati to fall to 0-6 this season, the first under head coach Matt Rhule. Dating back to last year Temple has lost seven straight games and 11 of its last 12. If the Owls fall to Army it will be 0-7 for the first time since 2006 when the team finished 1-11.
The only win the Owls have in the last 12 games actually came against Army last November, as they rolled to a 63-32 victory in West Point. It was the fifth straight win for the Owls, all in the last five seasons, and pushed them to a 6-4 all-time series edge.
As always the Army offense is predicated on the run out of the triple option scheme. The Black Knights lead the nation in rushing yards (352.3 ypg), while having just 472 yards total through the air. Against Eastern Michigan the Black Knights had a season-high 513 yards rushing.
Powering the attack in the win was Terry Baggett, who rumbled for 304 yards and four scores on 18 carries. The effort has clearly shown that Baggett is the top rushing option on the team as he leads the squad in yards (744) and yards per carry (9.7), while tied for the most rushing touchdowns (six). Larry Dixon has rushed for 516 yards and six scores as well, while Trenton Turrentine (314 yards, TD) is yet another back that will get plenty of chances.
Of course the quarterback is still an important part of the triple option. Despite not having much passing responsibility, he must make decisions off the snap and often run himself. Angel Santiago serves the role for Army and has rushed for 407 yards and four touchdowns on a team-high 103 carries this season. Santiago is not nearly as effective a passer with just 334 yards and two scores on 21-of-46 passing.
When he does pass, they usually find there way into Xavier Moss' hands. Moss has 18 receptions for 263 yards and a touchdown. No other player on the team has more than 10 catches or 65 yards.
Army's effort against Eastern Michigan was right in line with its season averages in terms of defense. The Black Knights surrendered 25 points and 417 yards of total offense and are now letting up 28.6 points and 403.6 total yards per contest. Army also has 13 sacks, which places it among the top 50 teams in the country in the category.
Though Temple is a more multi-faceted offensive squad, the Owls have not enjoyed similar offensive success compared to Army. The Owls are scoring just 16.5 points per game, ranking near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference in total offense (348 ypg).
For better or worse it seems that Rhule has given the starting quarterback job to freshman P.J. Walker. Walker started against Cincinnati and threw for 200 yards and two scores on 54.5 percent passing. He has totaled 395 yards and three scores with two interceptions in three total games played but has also been sacked nine times. Connor Reilly (76-of-148, 771 yards, two TDs, two INTs) was the starter and could still make an impact down the road.
Kenneth Harper is the most versatile and productive skill position player for the Owls. The running back has rushed for a team-high 322 yards and six touchdowns, while adding 14 receptions for 163 yards. He had 112 all-purpose yards against Cincinnati. Zaire Williams (260 yards, TD) provides a complement out of the backfield.
In terms of receivers, the favored targets of the two Owls' signal callers are Ryan Alderman (20 receptions, 305 yards, TD) and Jalen Fitzpatrick (18 receptions, 174 yards, two TDs).
Tyler Matakevich may be the most important player for the Owls as the linebacker leads the nation in solo tackles (65) by 20 stops. Matakevich had 15 total tackles against Cincinnati but the unit as a whole has been less effective, allowing 29 points and 510.8 yards per game.
Having to defend against a team that will rely solely on the run may be a benefit to the Owls, who are a bit more solid up front than in the backfield on defense. If Harper continues to prove to be as versatile and Walker really takes hold of the starting role the Owls may be able to get into the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Temple 24, Army 21
Saturday, October 19, 1:05 p.m. (et)