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Temple Owls vs. SMU Mustangs Preview and Prediction

Tyler Matakevich

Tyler Matakevich

Despite losing last week at home against Notre Dame, the Temple Owls are still out to prove they belong in the Top 25. Temple looks to get over its first loss of the season, and it probably could not have asked for a better opponent to rebound against. Temple flies south to take on SMU, a program that has shown some slight signs of improvement this season but clearly still has a long way to go.

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Temple at SMU

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV: ESPN2

Spread: Temple -14

Three Things to Watch

1. Short week for Owls after physical game vs. Irish

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Temple will be looking to rebound from a loss in the biggest game in program history. The Owls should have no shame in losing a tough game against Notre Dame last week, but head coach Matt Rhule appears to be cautious about the loss to the Irish creating a bit of a hangover. This week during a meeting with the media Rhule noted some of his players were still dragging their feet after losing to the Irish. Rhule and his staff, as well as the team captains, need to make sure the focus on a conference championship opportunity remains crystal clear. There is no time to worry about what could have been. There is still business to attend to that was unaffected by last week's result.

2. Tyler Matakevich here, Tyler Matakevich there, Tyler Matakevich everywhere!

If you still do not know who Tyler Matakevich is at this point in the season, that blame is on you. Matakevich is pretty much everywhere when he is stepping on to the field to play linebacker for the Owls, and that should be the case Friday night against SMU. Matakevich is the conference's third-leading tackler with 78 takedowns, including 41 solo tackles. He had eight tackles last week against Notre Dame and is one of many solid tacklers for Temple's defense. Matakevich and the rest of the defense showed last week against Notre Dame just how well they can tackle. It is refreshing to see a team use fundamentals of tackling to their advantage, rather than go for the big hit time after time.

3. Temple defense vs. SMU offensive line is a decided advantage for Owls

In the season opener against Penn State, Temple's defense sacked Christian Hackenberg 10 times. Since the opener Temple has recorded 13 sacks, including six against East Carolina two weeks ago (none last week vs. Notre Dame). This week the Owls take on an offense that has allowed the quarterback to be sacked 33 times this season. That right there could be the biggest key to the game. It just so happens protecting the quarterback is something Temple has excelled at this year, with an AAC-leading 10 sacks allowed (tied with Navy). SMU has just 12 sacks on defense this season, so Temple quarterback P.J. Walker should have a much more stress-free evening compared to his counterpart, Matt Davis.

Final Analysis

It was known from the start that Chad Morris was taking over quite the rebuilding project at SMU, and there have been some signs of progress despite a woeful 1-7 record this season. There is a small chance SMU can catch Temple by surprise early on, but if the Owls play their kind of game then they should have a relatively easy time getting out of Texas with a win.

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Prediction: Temple 34, SMU 17

— 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 writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.