Connecticut’s back is against the wall if it wants to make a bowl this season. Unfortunately, the team coming to Rentschler Field to try and keep that from happening is a Temple team with realistic sights set on an AAC East Division championship.
The Huskies are coming off a demoralizing, 41-3 loss to East Carolina to drop to 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the American. Temple, on the other hand, is riding high off a 34-13 win over Cincinnati, the team's third straight victory, to improve to 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the conference.
With a victory over South Florida, the Owls have the tiebreaker that can send them to the conference title game if they win out, so if they take care of business against the teams they should be favored against down the stretch, they have to like their chances.
Obviously, Temple is favored and for good reason. Going on the road on a Friday night against a desperate team, however, is never an easy proposition.
Temple at UConn
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Temple -10
Three Things to Watch
1. In a rush
The Temple offensive line has played exceptional of late and running backs Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead have been the beneficiaries. Against Cincinnati, Thomas rushed for 151 yards on just 17 carries (8.9 ypc). Although Armstead only had 61 yards on 18 attempts, he found the end zone twice. However, the UConn defense has proven to be pretty stout against the run this season, as the Huskies rank 26th in the nation in rushing defense. Linebackers Vontae Diggs, Junior Joseph and Matt Walsh have combined for 168 tackles and eight tackles for a loss. Their ability to stand up to the Owls' rushing attack will be critical if the Huskies want to come away with the upset.
2. Under siege
To put it quite bluntly, the UConn offensive line has been terrible at protecting the passer this season. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs has been feeling the pressure all season, as the Huskies rank 109th in the nation in sacks allowed with opponents racking up 25 in nine games. This is not the type of game where the big uglies can relax, either, because Temple brings a ferocious pass rush to the table. Defensive linemen Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike are two of the best in the conference, as they have combined for 11.5 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss. Reddick, who has 7.5 of those sacks, did not bring down the quarterback last week but had seven in his previous four games. Expect a big day from the two Friday night.
3. Terrific Thomas
The UConn offense hasn't seen much success overall this season, but there have been a couple bright spots in running back Arkeel Newsome and wide receiver Noel Thomas. A senior out of Norwalk, Conn., Thomas ranks fifth in the nation in receiving yards with 1,058 on 83 receptions. Although he only has three touchdowns, his threat on the outside is critical to his offense's success. Even in last week's loss to East Carolina, Thomas managed to catch seven passes for 135 yards. Temple, however, has the bodies to match his exploits, as the Owls rank sixth in the nation in passing defense. If they can hold Thomas in check, then they will be in good shape.
UConn head coach Bob Diaco appears to have had it up to his ears with an offense that simply doesn't have much punch at the moment. On the other sideline, Temple head coach Matt Rhule seems to believe his team turned the corner in a comeback win over UCF last month and can go on a real run. Both teams need the win for different reasons, and UConn will get a little boost from a home game on Friday night. However, it's hard to see how the Huskies will be able to move the ball consistently against a Temple defense that is beginning to hit its stride. If UConn is able to hit a few big plays and stuff the run on defense, the Huskies may have a shot, but the thought here is that Temple gets to UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs enough to force some turnovers and put the game away late behind its surging offensive line and dominant running game.
Prediction: Temple 27, UConn 14
— 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.
(Jahad Thomas photo by Joe Labolito/Temple University; Arkeel Newsome photo by Steve Slade/UConn Athletics)