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Military Bowl Preview and Prediction: Temple vs. Wake Forest

Dave Clawson

Dave Clawson

A few months ago, a game between these two teams probably doesn't garner much interest.

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Well, to say that's changed a bit is an understatement.

When the investigation into former Wake Forest radio analyst Tommy Elrod revealed that he purposely forwarded Demon Deacons' game plan information to opposing teams, it set off one of the more bizarre sports stories in recent memory, a controversy that hilariously came to be known as "WakeyLeaks."

Of course, this type of counter-intelligence subterfuge usually only brought to light in spy movies isn't really a laughing matter. Who knows how many games Wake Forest could have won that went the other way due to the incomprehensible actions of Elrod? The fallout included $25,000 fines by the ACC levied at Virginia Tech and Louisville for accepting confidential information.

Within all that drama has been a season that has been split right down the middle between its ups and downs.

The Demon Deacons won their first four games and five of their first six, only to lose five of their last six as the schedule toughened, culminating in a disappointing, 17-14 loss at home to Boston College. Overall, with a 6-6 mark and 3-5 in ACC play, it was a bit of a letdown after the strong start.

For Temple, though, the season has been a roaring success, as the program earned its third double-digit-win season ever and an American Athletic Conference championship by beating Navy in the title game. The conference title was just the second of any kind in program history.

The only downside to the 10-3 season was the loss of Matt Rhule, who left to take over the head coaching position at Baylor. Rhule oversaw a turnaround where the Owls went from 2-10 in his first year to back-to-back double-digit-win seasons.

Interim head coach Ed Foley will lead the Owls against Wake, with former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins waiting in the wings to take over full-time duties afterward.

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: Temple vs. Wake Forest (Annapolis, Md.)

Kickoff: Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Annapolis, Md.)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Temple -12

Three Things to Watch

1. Double-barrel attack

One of the key matchups in Annapolis Tuesday will be how the Wake Forest defense is able to defend the two-pronged Temple attack of running backs Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead. The two have each rushed for exactly 918 yards on the season, with Armstead reaching the end zone 14 times to Thomas' 13. Armstead also owns has the edge in yards per carry – 6.2 to 4.6. Stats aside, these are simply two players Wake Forest will have to account for all game, and the Demon Deacons’ run defense has been a little bit better than middle of the road at 50th in the nation. But Wake will have to be better than simply adequate to hold Temple's rushing attack in check.

2. Passing the test

Wake Forest is better on the ground than through the air, but there will be times when the Demon Deacons will need to throw in order to have success. Quarterback John Wolford has been a bit inconsistent, completing 156-of-280 passes (55.7 percent) for 1,591 yards with seven touchdowns to nine interceptions. He's spread the ball around well, as five different players have 22 or more catches, but the passing game in general does not have much of an explosive element. The challenge against Temple in that regard will be significant, as the Owls are 14th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Whether or not the Demon Deacons can overcome that matchup disparity will be a key component to their ability to move the ball with success.

3. Stock watch

In addition to being able to grab one more win, a bowl acts as a showcase for NFL prospects to put on one more big performance for scouts. In this game, one player to keep an eye on is Temple edge rusher Haason Reddick. A 6-foot-1, 230-pound redshirt senior, Reddick isn't the biggest player for his position, but he doesn't lack for production. He is tied for first in the country with 21.5 tackles for a loss to go along with 9.5 sacks. He is projected by most to go somewhere in the first three rounds, and a dominant effort against Wake couldn't hurt his stock.

Final Analysis

This game has more than your usual subplots for any run-of-the-mill bowl. The fact that Wake Forest is playing in its first post-WakeyLeaks contest brings its own level of intrigue for a controversy of which has its own unique place in college football history. Just how the Demon Deacons respond after what happened will be worthy of attention. Temple is going through a coaching transition, which could cause some players to check out of they are upset over the loss of Matt Rhule. How Ed Foley handles running the show in his interim status will be key for keeping his team motivated. But if you strip away all the other factors, Temple simply has been the better team this year. At the end of the day, leaks or no leaks, coach or no coach, Temple has more going for it on the field than Wake. Look for the Owls to feast on the ground and stifle the Demon Deacons' offense en route to victory.

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Prediction: Temple 31, Wake Forest 17

— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.