Cincinnati is one of three unbeaten teams in the American Athletic Conference left standing, and they put that record on the line on the road this week againstTemple. After a rough start to the season, the Owls have won three of their last four games and are looking to play the role of spoiler in the AAC.
Luke Fickell has done a terrific job in turning Cincinnati back into a conference championship contender this season. With a win on the road against Temple to improve to 7-0, he would also keep Cincinnati in position to compete for not just a conference championship, but also a trip to a New Year's Six bowl game at the end of the year. Will Cincinnati keep its undefeated record in one piece after a trip to Philadelphia this weekend? Or will Geoff Collins find a way to keep the Owls in contention for the division crown while flying under the radar in the AAC?
Cincinnati at Temple
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Temple -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Cincinnati defense among the nation’s most improved
One of the biggest changes this season has been the performance of Cincinnati’s defense. A front seven loaded with upperclassmen has had an impact on transforming a defense that ranked 95th last season into the nation’s fourth-best defense entering the week. Cincinnati is one of eight schools in the nation allowing fewer than 300 yards of offense, a group that includes Michigan and Clemson. Cortez Broughton has helped with 10 tackles for a loss.
2. Michael Warren II has scored in every game so far
Warren has certainly left a mark on Cincinnati’s success this season so far. The sophomore running back has scored at least one rushing touchdown in every game Cincinnati has played so far, making him the conference’s second-leading scorer among running back with 11 touchdowns. He also has rushed for at least 100 yards in the last three games and four times this season.
Temple’s lead running back, Ryquell Armstead, is questionable for this week’s game due to an ankle injury that left him out of action last week against Navy. If Armstead is out again, Jager Gardner will likely take the majority of the handoffs after getting 11 rushing attempts for 52 yards last week.
3. A must-win for Temple?
In a division highlighted by three teams — UCF, USF and Cincinnati — who haven't lost yet, the Owls are looking to make a bit of a statement this week. The Owls are also undefeated in conference play and are hoping to score a major win in the division race that is still up for grabs at the moment. Beating Cincinnati will be difficult but the Owls have drastically changed the outlook of their season since starting the year 0-2 with home losses to Villanova and Buffalo.
After a 21-point win at Maryland and pushing Boston College on the road, the Owls have won two AAC games at home and one on the road by a combined score of 104-40. Cincinnati will be a major test for Temple, but a win would keep a possible bowl game within reach for Temple.
Temple has looked like a different team since its dreadful start to the season, and playing at home could be enough for the Owls to give Cincinnati a good test of their own. Cincinnati’s defense should fare well against the Owls' offense, which can be inconsistent at times throwing the football. And if Temple is without Ryquell Armstead, the running game will lose some punch as well. This should be a scrappy game either way, and Cincinnati has the defense to take advantage of that on the road.
Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Temple 23
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.