AAC West-leading Cougars look to bounce back at home against bowl-seeking Owls
After suffering a surprising loss on the road last week, Houston returns home looking to remain in the driver's seat of the West Division of the AAC. In order to do that, the Cougars will have to set aside a challenge from Temple a week after the Owls gave UCF all it could handle in Orlando.
Can Temple put together another big offensive effort to keep pace with Houston, or will the Owls run out of steam in their third straight game against a top division contender in the AAC?
Temple at Houston
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Houston -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Will Ed Oliver play?
One of the top defensive linemen in the nation, Oliver has missed the last two games for Houston. Oliver did warm up with his teammates last week as he looked to see if he could go at full strength while recovering from a bruised right knee. It was after warming up that Oliver and trainers determined it was not worth the risk to get him back on the field last week. Will one week provide a more optimistic chance for Oliver to get on the field against Temple? If so, then Temple will have its hands full trying to protect quarterback Anthony Russo.
2. Russo lifting Temple offense, but prone to turnovers
There is no question that the insertion of Russo into the starting lineup has given the Owls a more effective offense this season. In the last four games, Russo has thrown 12 touchdown passes, and he is coming off a four-touchdown performance with 444 yards at UCF last week. As much production as Temple is getting from his arm, Russo is also good for at least one interception per game as well. Russo has been intercepted in each of the last seven games, with five interceptions combined in the last two games against Cincinnati and UCF. Russo will have to protect the football better if Temple is to give Houston a good scare, although Temple has beaten Cincinnati and challenged UCF despite the errors.
3. Temple one win shy of bowl eligibility
The Owls started the season on a sour note by dropping the first two games of the season at home. With a seemingly challenging conference schedule ahead of them, six wins quickly looked to be nearly impossible, but Temple is now on the cusp of bowl eligibility after winning three of the last four games in the AAC, including handing Cincinnati its first loss of the year. The Owls can still probably count on a regular-season finale against UConn on the road if needed, but after pushing UCF last week, it would not be a surprise to see Temple flirt with clinching bowl eligibility this week.
Houston quarterback D'Eriq King, like the entire Houston team, is looking for a rebound this week after last week's loss at SMU. Surprisingly, King has thrown four interceptions in the last five conference games, and they have all come in the two home games in that span. King can be a tough player for Temple to defend, but if the Owls can make him uncomfortable, then he may give the ball away. But how much gas did Temple use up last week against UCF? Will there be enough in the tank for a second straight road game against a division leader in the AAC? Houston should have enough big plays in it to make it tough for Temple to keep up, and the Cougars will remain in first place in the AAC West Division.
Prediction: Houston 34, Temple 27
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.
(Top photo courtesy of Houston Cougar Football Facebook page)