In the American Athletic Conference, three teams remained unblemished in conference play. Four remain winless. One of each will meet Thursday night in Orlando.
UCF will look to stay perfect in conference play as it plays host to Temple. The Knights are 4-1 overall while Temple is 2-3. The Owls have alternated losses and wins to start the season and are coming off a 24-3 loss to Memphis. They'll look for their first AAC win.
UCF leads the all-time series 7-2 and has won five straight over the Owls. None of the last five have been decided by fewer than 12 points. The average margin of victory during the Knights' winning streak is 29 points.
Temple at UCF
When Temple Has the Ball
Temple enters Thursday's contest with not only the worst offense in the AAC, but one of the worst in the entire country. The Owls rank just 125th nationally in total offense and 126th in scoring offense. Temple is averaging just 15 points per game and has been held without a touchdown twice in five games. Freshman quarterback E.J. Warner, son of Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, has been tasked with trying to jumpstart the offense. Warner has a nice arm, but early on, he has more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). Warner completed fewer than half of his passes and was intercepted three times in last week's 24-3 loss to Memphis. The two other quarterbacks to see time this season — D'Wan Mathis and Quincy Patterson — began their careers at Power 5 schools.
Darvon Hubbard and Edward Saydee are Temple's top two rushers, but the ground game has been virtually non-existent this season. Temple averages just 2.7 yards per carry this season. That ranks just 124th in the country. One area that has been a bright spot for the offense is the wide receiver position. Jose Barbon and Adonicas Sanders each have 21 catches and have combined for more than 600 receiving yards. Jordan Smith, a 6-foot-5 tight end, is a solid red-zone target and leads the team with two touchdown catches. While the Temple offensive line has generated no holes, it has allowed the fewest sacks in the AAC.
While the Temple offense has been one of the nation's worst, the UCF defense has been one of the nation's best. The Knights will give up yards, but rank in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense. No one has scored more than 20 points against UCF this season. UCF hasn't lived in opposing backfields this season but is solid just about everywhere else on defense. Tre'mon Morris-Brash is the best that UCF has up front. He leads the team with three sacks, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries this season. Linebacker Jason Johnson is the leading tackler for UCF, but Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste may be the best at the position.
Quadric Bullard is the leader of the secondary for UCF but sat out of last week's 41-19 win over SMU with an injury. He had two fumble recoveries in last season's 49-7 win over Temple. Divaad Wilson leads the team with two interceptions while Davonte Brown may be the best cover man for the team. UCF finished with three takeaways in last season's win in Philadelphia. The Knights haven't done much of that this season, but only Auburn and Illinois have allowed fewer touchdown passes than the Knights. UCF allowed less than 300 yards against Temple last season.
When UCF Has the Ball
After spending time as a wide receiver at Ole Miss, John Rhys Plumlee's transition back to a full-time quarterback has been seamless. Plumlee has passed for more than 300 yards in three of UCF's five games and is the team's leading rusher with 413 yards. He's accounted for 11 total touchdowns. Joining him in the backfield is the thunder-and-lightning combination of Johnny Richardson and Isaiah Bowser. Richardson is a big play waiting to happen and is a solid receiver out of the backfield. Bowser, a 225-pound bruiser, is the short-yardage back. Although he averages just 3.5 yards per carry, Bowser leads the AAC and ranks seventh nationally with eight rushing touchdowns. As a team, UCF's 5.3 yards per carry average leads the AAC.
Out wide, Javon Baker and Ryan O'Keefe are the names to know. Baker, the leading receiver and an Alabama transfer, has 395 yards this season and shown an ability to stretch a defense. O'Keefe is the quintessential possession receiver. Both are tied for the team lead with two touchdown grabs. O'Keefe caught a pair of touchdowns in last season's win. Center Matt Lee headlines a very good offensive line for the Knights. In the AAC, only Cincinnati scores more points than UCF and only SMU averages more yards.
Despite the offense's best efforts, the Temple defense has kept the Owls in just about every game this season. Temple allows the fewest yards per game in the AAC and ranks in the top 20 nationally in both scoring and total defense. One area where Temple excels is getting to the passer. The Owls have 20 sacks as a team through five games and four different players with at least three. Darian Varner's three sacks lead all Temple defensive linemen. Where Temple is best, however, is at linebacker.
Kobe Wilson is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker while Jordan Magee, Layton Jordan, and Tra Thomas have done an excellent job of getting to the quarterback. Jordan's 4.5 sacks lead the team and rank second in the AAC. In the secondary, Alex Odom, Muheem McCargo, and Jalen Ware can all play. Ware had the game's lone interception in last season's UCF victory. When it comes to the kicking game, changes have helped both teams. Colton Boomer had been a nice insertion in the lineup for UCF while Camden Price connected on a 47-yard field goal last week for Temple after taking over for Rory Bell.
The Temple defense may have some success against UCF early, but it's hard to see the Owls being able to sustain drives in any meaningful way. The best chance for the Owls will be with big plays. They may even need a non-offensive score. Unfortunately for Temple, UCF has hardly been susceptible to the big play. Expect the Knights to gradually pull away.
Prediction: UCF 34, Temple 10
Podcast: Complete Week 7 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread + Latest in Coaching News
— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.
*Price as of publication.