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Temple Owls vs. East Carolina Pirates Preview and Prediction

Author:
P.J. Walker

P.J. Walker

Temple has jumped into the AP Top 25 at No. 22. It’s really not a big surprise; it’s not like they haven’t been there before. They’ve been to a number of Elite Eights and even went to the Final Four a couple of times back in the '50s.

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Wait, what? We're not talking basketball? Temple football is in the Top 25? Holy John Chaney.

It is true, for the first time since the close of the 1979 season, Temple is ranked. This is also the school’s first 6-0 start since 1974.

And don’t think East Carolina isn’t aware of the Owls’ lofty perch. The Pirates are waiting for Temple and will be looking to knock the Owls from the ranks of the unbeaten on Thursday night.

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Temple at East Carolina

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Thursday)

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TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: East Carolina -3

Three Things to Watch

1. Temple's State of Mind

This is a brutal spot for the Owls. They had a late Saturday night finish againstCentral Florida this past weekend and on a short week have to head down to Greenville, N.C. ECU played on Saturday too, but it was at noon at home. Also, Temple may have an eye on the future. It was announced earlier in the week that their next game, against Notre Dame, will be on ABC in prime time. With a soft slate on Halloween, it is possible that ESPN's "College GameDay" could be in Philly if Temple wins this week. In the grand scheme of things, the game against East Carolina is more important as it’s a conference game. But try explaining that to the Temple faithful.

2. So Who’s the East Carolina Quarterback Now?

Blake Kemp is the starter and he has completed 71.3 percent of his passes for 1,556 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s the man all the time, right? Wrong. James Summers can throw the ball — 68 percent completion rate for 417 yards and four touchdowns — but he is also a force running the ball. He is second on the team with 354 yards rushing and almost single-handedly beat Virginia Tech in a game where he ran for 169 yards and two scores. Temple has the nation’s No. 8 run defense and the 44th-ranked pass defense, so logic would say that Kemp will see more action. But with head coach Ruffin McNeill calling the shots, you never know.

3.  Stopping Jahad Thomas

The junior from Elizabeth, N.J., has 756 yards on the season with 199 of those coming in the UCF game on Saturday. Quarterback P.J. Walker has been solid for the Owls, but Temple does not have a dynamic offense and Thomas is its biggest threat. The Pirates rank 90th against the run, but that is a bit deceiving because Navy’s triple option piled up 415 yards on the ground. Take the Navy game out of the mix and ECU would rank No. 49. Temple doesn’t have a lot of big play receivers, so if East Carolina can contain Thomas it would go a long way towards giving the Pirates a victory.

Final Analysis

Temple opened the season with a huge win over Penn State. But Tulane, UCF, and Cincinnati — the AAC teams that Temple has defeated — are a combined 1-7 in league play and the only win was a Tulane victory over Central Florida. The Pirates, on the other hand, have been through a meat grinder, losing at Florida, Navy, and BYU while beating Virginia Tech. ECU will spot James Summers at quarterback and if he is effective, the junior will get his share of snaps. But Blake Kemp should be throwing it to Isaiah Jones, Bryce Williams and Trevon Brown in an effort to take Temple down by air. Thomas will have his moments, but traveling during a short week and with the Notre Dame glare staring them in the face, Temple falls for the first time.

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Prediction: East Carolina 27, Temple 17

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.