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South Florida Bulls vs. Temple Owls Preview and Prediction

Quinton Flowers

Quinton Flowers

Temple (4-3) and South Florida (6-1) meet Thursday night in Philadelphia in a battle for first place in the American Athletic Conference East Division.

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USF carries a sparkling 3-0 conference record into this game and at 6-1 overall, the Bulls would like to keep things rolling in an effort to stay in the conversation in regards to the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six candidates. Quarterback Quinton Flowers single-handedly lifted the Bulls over UConn last week with 213 passing yards and 160 rushing yards in a five-touchdown performance. Flowers led the team in both categories in the 42-27 victory at home.

While the Bulls were handling business in the Sunshine State last week, so was Temple, as it squeezed out a 26-25 victory in Orlando against UCF. Temple’s defense held the Knights to just 86 rushing yards. At 2-1 in AAC action, a win Thursday would put the Owls in a desirable position for the division title and a spot in the conference championship game.

South Florida running back Marlon Mack gashed Temple for 230 rushing yards and three scores in last season’s meeting. He is certainly someone the Owls’ defense must account for and focus on slowing him down. This is just the third meeting between these schools with each team winning at home.

South Florida at Temple

Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: South Florida -6.5

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Three Things to Watch

1. Quinton Flowers
It’s possible that Flowers doesn’t get the deserved recognition when discussing the AAC’s top quarterbacks. In seven games played this season, A dual threat in every sense of the word, Flowers has amassed 1,535 passing yards to go along with 718 rushing yards, both team highs. He’s tossed 13 touchdown passes and has rushed for seven. He ranks behind only Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. in total offense in the conference, and is one of just three AAC quarterbacks that are averaging more 300 yards per game.

Additionally, he’s averaging more than 300 yards to total offense per game In South Florida’s 38-22 win over East Carolina two weeks ago, the junior accounted for 365 yards of offense. He also has two 100-yard rushing games this season. Flowers is the most integral cog in South Florida’s Gulf-Coast offense, and when he’s clicking, he’s one of the best players in the country.

Related: College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 8

2. Jahad Thomas
When Thomas leaves Temple, his name will remain in the record books as he’s been one of the most productive backs to come through the Philly school. The senior has a career 2,003 rushing yards to his name, along with 24 touchdowns. In 14 games last season, Thomas exploded for 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also tallied 216 receiving yards on 22 receptions, good for nearly 10 yards per catch.

After sitting out the first two games with a hand injury, it took Thomas a while to get going, but he earned his first 100-yard rushing game last week against UCF, finishing with 120 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). In Temple’s one-point loss to Memphis two weeks ago, Thomas managed just 37 yards on 13 carries, but he hauled in six passes for 121 yards and two scores.

3. Marlon Mack
Mack is the thunder to Flowers’ lightning in South Florida’s Gulf-Coast offense. After rushing for 100 yards nine times last season, Mack already has four such games under his belt in 2016, the most recent coming last week against UConn (107 yards). Prior to that, Mack posted 152 yards against East Carolina and 118 against Cincinnati. Despite missing his team’s game against Northern Illinois in early September, Mack has rushed for 592 yards and nine touchdowns.

Mack’s name was called early and often last year when these teams faced off, and that should be the case again Friday night.

Final Analysis

South Florida’s only hiccup this year was against Florida State. The Bulls have breezed past every other opponent on their schedule. The Quinton Flowers-Marlon Mack tandem has given opposing defensive coordinators fits, and Friday won’t be much different. Temple will offer a challenging test early as its defense is holding opponents to fewer than 25 points per game, but USF’s talented roster and deep bench will see that the Bulls win yet another contest against the Owls.

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Prediction: South Florida 35, Temple 20

— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.