The American Athletic Conference sends two of its best teams not located in Houston to the field Thursday night when Memphis hosts Temple in a primetime conference battle. The Owls upended the Tigers in Philadelphia last season en route to making an appearance in the first AAC Championship Game. If Temple is going to set their sights on a return trip to the conference championship, a win against Memphis on the road would serve them well.
Temple at Memphis
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 6, at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Memphis -10.0
Three Things to Watch
1. Memphis comes off a loss, but hasn’t really lost a tick on offense
If you wanted to write Memphis off this season after losing its head coach to Virginia Tech (Justin Fuente) and star quarterback to the NFL (Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos), few would have argued with you there. However, Memphis has come out of the gates blasting opponents on its schedule, with the notable exception of last weekend’s game at Ole Miss. Before getting to the Ole Miss game, Memphis put up 77 points on Bowling Green and tanked Kansas by a score of 43-7. Maybe we shouldn’t get too carried away with winning those games, but it is how they were won. Ole Miss was too much to handle in a revenge situation for the Rebels in Oxford, but Memphis returns home for this one and will give Temple’s defense plenty to worry about. Memphis has averaged 45.8 points and 6.36 yards per play.
2. Temple back on track after rough start?
Temple lost a stunner in Week 1 against Army, and then lost on the road at Penn State two weeks later, but the Owls appear to have bounced back pretty well from their opening shocker. Even in the loss at Penn State, Temple played tough and nearly found way to tie the game late in State College. Since then, Temple has outscored opponents (Charlotte and SMU) by a score of 93-40, and jumping out on opponents early has been the key. If Temple can get off to a good start against Memphis, the Owls still have the defense to hold on to a lead.
3. AAC’s No. 1 pass defense counters No. 2 passing offense
Something has to give, right? Temple leads the AAC in passing defense with an average of just 99.24 yards per game allowed through the air. To be fair, having Army on the schedule helps bring that average down and only two other schools in the conference have allowed fewer pass attempts per game thus far. But Temple also has six interceptions and just four passing touchdowns allowed. Passing has been key for Memphis. The Tigers average 308.5 passing yards per game with Riley Ferguson leading the aerial attack with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Can Temple force a few errant passes?
One thing Memphis seems to have in its favor over the Owls is the ability to rely on the offense to make some plays. While Temple’s offense has poured on the points the last couple of weeks, Temple still comes into Thursday night’s matchup with the ninth-ranked rushing offense and ninth-ranked passing offense in the AAC. Through five games, Temple quarterback P.J. Walker has six touchdown passes and seven interceptions. The Owls have to find a way to be more efficient and careful if they are to come out of Memphis with a win.
Prediction: Memphis 29, Temple 26
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. 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 Getty Images)