Conference play in the American Athletic Conference continues in the national spotlight on Thursday night with a battle between the top two programs in the AAC East the past two seasons. Temple may have won the division the past two seasons, but South Florida is the prohibitive favorite this season. The Bulls also are looking for revenge from a road loss last season that proved critical in the division and conference championship hunt.
USF looks like an easy favorite in this one as the veteran program while Temple is younger and still coming together under new head coach Geoff Collins and his staff. If Temple is going to threaten USF, the Owls must find a way to knock Quinton Flowers off his game.
Temple at South Florida
Kickoff: Thursday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: USF -21
Three Things to Watch
1. Quinton Flowers is heating up
The Bulls' dual-threat quarterback is widely considered to be the top offensive player in the AAC, but he got off to a bit of a surprisingly slow start compared to what was expected. That seemed to change a bit last week as USF got in a groove at home against Illinois. Flowers will be a big problem for Temple’s defense after passing for 280 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 106 yards and another touchdown against the Illini.
2. Can Temple's defense get off the field?
One of the strengths of the last few seasons for Temple has been the defense. This season, with a new coaching staff and a good amount of roster turnover from 2016, getting off the field on third down has been a struggle for Temple at times. The Owls rank 106th in the nation in third-down defense a year after finishing the season 20th in FBS in the category. Opponents are converting 45.2 percent of their third-down conversion attempts against Temple.
3. Home-field advantage leads to big wins
The Bulls and Owls have been the top two teams in the AAC East the past two seasons, but the head-to-head matchups have not been as competitive as you might have expected. The home team has won by at least two touchdowns in the last two years. USF defeated Temple by 21 points the last time the Owls flew to Tampa in 2015, although Temple still managed to take the division. Last season, in Philadelphia, the Owls topped USF by 16 points en route to a second straight division championship. USF is a big favorite in this week’s matchup, so that trend could continue.
South Florida did not look quite as good as expected in the first couple of games of the season as Charlie Strong and his staff got settled in with their new program, but things seemed to suddenly click last week against a struggling Illinois program just before getting into conference play. Flowers will be the main attraction but the Bulls will need running back Darius Tice to chew up yardage against the Temple defense. USF’s big advantage in this matchup will be on the ground. Temple gave up 422 rushing yards to Notre Dame in Week 1, including 106 to Brandon Wimbush and 161 to Josh Adams. It could be a big game for the ground attack by USF.
Prediction: USF 37, Temple 20
— 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.