Cincinnati is coming off arguably the biggest win in school history last week, and now the mission is to avoid a letdown spot on a Friday night at home against a conference foe. That opponent this week is Temple, with the Owls coming off a surprising victory against the Memphis Tigers. Can the Owls catch undefeated Cincinnati in a textbook letdown situation?
Cincinnati's win last week was the biggest hurdle cleared on a path to a possible spot in the College Football Playoff. But some naysayers suggest the Bearcats will have to focus largely on style points the rest of the way as other power conference playoff candidates begin to make their own cases in the final two months. That objective starts this weekend in their American Athletic Conference opener at home against Temple. Temple and Cincinnati have split their two most recent meetings in 2018 and 2019, but this is a different season and the stakes are as high as they have ever been for the Bearcats.
Temple at No. 5 Cincinnati
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Cincinnati -29.5
When Temple Has the Ball
The Temple offense broke out some big plays last week in a surprising win over Memphis, and redshirt freshman quarterback and former Georgia Bulldog D'Wan Mathis seems to be coming along for the Owls. Mathis has completed 61.9 percent of his passes this season — but for just 762 yards. He has five touchdown passes with just one interception so far. Last week against Memphis, Mathis had three touchdowns and 322 passing yards. Kyle Dobbins had three rushing touchdowns in the Owls' win over the Tigers, making the most of his opportunities as a sturdy short-yardage option.
Temple will have a rough time going against Cincinnati's defense, however. Cincinnati has the nation's No. 8 scoring defense, allowing only 14.5 points per game this season. Cincinnati gave up just 13 last week on the road against Notre Dame, and only Indiana has managed to score more than two touchdowns against the Bearcats. Temple does have the AAC's most efficient red zone offense (tied with East Carolina) with 15 scoring trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line (10 TDs, 5 FGs in 16 total attempts). But the Bearcats have the conference's stingiest red zone defense (6 TDs, 0 FGs in 13 trips), so something will have to give there.
When Cincinnati Has the Ball
Quarterback Desmond Ridder came up big in last weekend's signature win at Notre Dame. Ridder has accounted for 1,143 yards of offense with an average of 7.88 yards per play between passes and runs. Ridder has rushed for a touchdown in three of four games this season, so count on Ridder taking one into the end zone against Temple.
Ridder did have a rough game against the Owls back in 2019. In a 15-13 win at home, Ridder completed just nine of his 25 pass attempts for 62 yards with an interception. If Temple can come up with that kind of defensive showing again, the Owls could give Cincinnati a big scare on Friday night.
They won't though. This Cincinnati team is now in a position to make a serious run for a rare spot in the College Football Playoff, and Luke Fickell won't have his team in position for a letdown after a big win against Notre Dame last week. The Bearcats should be in full control from start to finish and begin their push for playoff consideration by picking up their first conference win.
Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Temple 13
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