Everything was going so smoothly for Memphis but the Tigers have hit a snag in the carpet of the 2015 season. A two-game losing streak in conference play to division foes Navy and Houston has knocked Memphis out of the running for the division and conference title, but the Tigers can play quite the spoiler for Temple as the Owls look to stay on top of the American Athletic Conference East Division. Temple's loss last week to South Florida opened the door for the Bulls, but the Owls still have a one-game lead in the division with two games to play.
Both teams are looking to shrug off conference losses, and the meeting of Memphis and Temple looks to be one of the conference's best matchups between offense and defense this season.
College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview
Memphis at Temple
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Memphis -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Memphis offense vs. Temple defense; Something has to give
Memphis has the conference's top scoring offense with an average of 43.7 points scored per game. Temple's offense should struggle to keep up with that pace, but the Owls will bring a defense that could help slow things down a bit. Temple has allowed 21.0 points per game this season, which is fourth-best among AAC programs. That number has been inflated the past two weeks by giving up 40 points on the road against SMU and last week giving up 44 points in a loss to USF. Is Temple's defense recovering from a hard-fought matchup with Notre Dame, in which the Owls held the Irish to 24 points and came up with a pair of red zone takeaways?
Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich remains one of the top defensive players in the nation, but he and the Owls will face a tough challenge against Paxton Lynch and the Memphis offense looking to snap a losing streak. Memphis left Temple last season with a 16-13 victory. Lynch completed 21 of 28 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown and Memphis was limited to 312 yards of total offense.
2. Paxton Lynch to the rescue?
Paxton Lynch was just a couple of weeks ago being revered as a potential Heisman Trophy long shot, but two straight losses have derailed that idea. Still, Lynch remains one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and is still being viewed favorably by NFL scouts, so Temple will have their hands full with slowing Lynch down. Even in losses the last two weeks, Lynch played well against Navy and Houston, completing roughly 63 percent of his passes for 583 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. It is the first time Lynch has been picked off in consecutive games this season.
3. Temple home -ield advantage?
The season started with a 10-sack performance and a rare win against Penn State and has seen the Owls shut down a handful of conference foes and give Notre Dame a tough battle. Lincoln Financial Field has a new buzz to it this season when Temple is playing, but how much of an advantage can it be this weekend against Memphis? Temple is 6-4 in The Linc since the beginning of the 2014 season, but the losses have come by no more than eight points in that stretch.
Temple may have started to show some cracks after letting a fourth-quarter lead slip away against Notre Dame a few weeks ago. The defense has typically been the strength of the Owls but the last two weeks have shown opposing offenses rack up some big plays and scores against Temple. With two games to go, the Owls must keep their foot on the gas pedal to stay ahead of USF and wrap up the AAC East. Facing Memphis, still one of the most dangerous Group of 5 programs looking to snap a two-game losing streak feels like a bad situation for Temple this week. Memphis may have to win an ugly game and grind out some drives against Temple.
Prediction: Memphis 20, Temple 18
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.