Owls and Blue Devils meet for the first time ever in Shreveport
The football histories of Temple and Duke have been filled with a large number of losses. Temple had 18 consecutive losing campaigns between 1991-2008 with Duke managing just one winning campaign from 1990-2011. Bowl games were a rarity for both schools until Al Golden was hired at Temple and David Cutcliffe set up shop at Duke. Then things began to change. The last 10 years have been the golden years for the Blue Devils and the Owls, with each program qualifying for six bowls in that time.
Cutcliffe will be coaching his 11th bowl game and 212th game overall when Duke takes on Temple in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Owls meanwhile have transitioned from Golden to Steve Addazio to Matt Rhule and then Geoff Collins. And the winning continued. Now Collins is off to Georgia Tech and interim head coach Ed Foley will be leading the way for the very first time.
The 7-5 Devils come in after getting blasted in their final two games against Clemson and Wake Forest by a combined score of 94-13 while Temple (8-4) rebounded from an 0-2 start by winning eight of its last 10. While Duke and Temple have met up 22 times on the basketball court, the Independence Bowl will be their first-ever meeting on the gridiron.
Walk-On's Independence Bowl: Temple (8-4) vs. Duke (7-5)
Kickoff: Thursday, Dec. 27 at 1:30 p.m. ET
Where: Independence Stadium (Shreveport, La.)
Spread: Temple -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Will this be Daniel Jones’s final game?
Most likely. The Duke quarterback battled back from a broken collarbone suffered early in the season to put up some solid numbers: 2,251 passing yards and 17 touchdowns with just seven interceptions while adding 325 yards and two more scores on the ground. The redshirt junior has another year of eligibility remaining, but in a weak quarterback draft, a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder that is mobile, talented, and intelligent will be coveted by pro scouts. This game will give Jones a chance to showcase his skills against one of the best pass defenses in the country. The Owls have allowed just 166 passing yards per game this season, good for seventh in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). Duke receivers T.J. Rahming and Jonathan Lloyd are winding up their careers as well, and if Jones can increase his draft stock with a big game, Rahming and Lloyd could move up some draft boards as a result.
2. Temple offensive line vs. Duke’s defensive front
Temple’s blockers may not be the most talented group in America, but they are a gritty, hard-working unit that gets the job done. Owl quarterbacks were sacked just 15 times in the regular season, which is tied for 18th nationally even though Temple threw 397 passes on the year. The ground game was a bit more of a challenge, but the Owls achieved enough balance as running back Ryquell Armstead has nearly 1,100 yards on the season. The Temple line will be battling a Duke defensive front seven that doesn’t make a lot of big plays but is fundamentally sound. Star linebackers Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys fought through injuries this season and the four weeks off prior to the bowl game will be beneficial to both Duke defenders. Chris Rumph and Victor Dimukeje are young, athletic players off the edge that can combine with the linebackers to cause problems. So while Duke’s front may not rival that of Clemson, there’s enough there to be a concern for Temple offensive line coach Chris Wiesehan.
3. Temple quarterback Anthony Russo
After losses to FCS opponent Villanova and Buffalo to start the season, Russo was inserted as the starting quarterback in week three and the Owls blasted Maryland 35-14. The only two losses that Temple suffered the rest of the way were competitive games to Boston College and undefeated UCF. Russo’s numbers weren’t sensational, but the sophomore piled up win after win. Like every team in every game, Temple would love to have balance on offense. Duke’s defense has been susceptible to strong running attacks, making Armstead an important player in this game. But Russo will have to open things up for his talented back by completing some throws downfield to Ventell Bryant and Branden Mack. Russo also threw 13 interceptions this year and avoiding turnovers will be key against the Blue Devils.
With a 7-1 conference record, the lone loss coming by 12 points in Orlando against UCF, Temple proved itself to be the second-best team in the AAC this fall. The strong finish that included wins over Cincinnati, Houston, and South Florida is the primary reason Geoff Collins is set to replace Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech and won’t be facing Duke until next fall. But the Owls are brimming with confidence and Ed Foley is excited to see his team compete. Duke will be healthier than they’ve been in a while, but the Devils struggled down the stretch. While Temple will need quarterback Anthony Russo to make plays to give running back Ryquell Armstead a chance, for Duke it’s just the opposite. Against a stiff Temple pass defense, Duke will need running back Deon Jackson to be a factor. The Temple rush defense checks in at 90th in the country, giving up a little more than 190 yards per game. As good as Jones is, he cannot beat this Temple defense by himself. Finally, much of this game will come down to motivation and it is difficult to gauge who has the upper hand in that department. The Owls, with a win over an ACC team in its sights, comes out as the more passionate team and wins a tough Independence Bowl.
Prediction: Temple 24, Duke 20
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.