A pair of 6-3 AAC teams will duke it out in Philly
After a couple of disappointing performances, the Owls got back in the win column last week with a 17-7 road victory at South Florida. Like Temple, the Green Wave also ended a two-game skid to a couple of American Athletic Conference heavyweights by taking down Tulsa two weeks ago.
A victory would essentially clinch a second straight winning season for Tulane under head coach Willie Fritz after four straight losing campaigns. Under first-year head coach Rod Carey, the Owls can notch a sixth straight winning season. Temple won the last meeting between the teams, 31-0, late in the 2016 season.
Tulane at Temple
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 16 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Tulane -5
When Tulane Has the Ball
With Houston’s D’Eriq King sitting for the remainder of the season, Tulane quarterback Justin McMillan may be the most explosive dual-threat quarterback in the AAC. For the season, McMillan has 25 total touchdowns and leads the Green Wave in both rushing and passing. He's still not terribly accurate, but McMillan has improved as a passer as a senior, and if he doesn’t turn the ball over, Tulane is tough to stop. The Green Wave are 4-0 and averaging nearly 43 points per game when McMillan doesn’t throw an interception.
McMillan leads Tulane with 488 rushing yards, but six different players have at least 200 yards on the ground this season for the Green Wave. Among AAC teams, only Navy averages more yards per game on the ground than the Green Wave’s 257. The top running back for Tulane is senior Corey Dauphine, but he left early in last week’s win against Tulsa and is unlikely to go this weekend. In his place, Stephon Huderson rushed for 100 yards on just seven carries. Out wide, senior Darnell Mooney leads the team with 31 catches for 536 yards and five touchdown receptions. Tulane has allowed only 13 sacks this season.
Temple is in the middle of the pack defensively in the AAC, but against a run-happy South Florida team on Thursday, the Owls held the Bulls to just 61 yards on the ground and less than two yards per carry. The name to know on the defensive line is 285-pound sophomore Ifeanyi Maijeh, who has six sacks on the season. Leading Temple in that category is junior defensive end Quincy Roche, who tallied 3.5 sacks in last week’s win over South Florida. Roche has 6.5 for the year.
Shaun Bradley, a senior linebacker, leads the team with 58 tackles, but the Owls have players in the secondary who like to hit. Harrison Hand, a junior cornerback, has 47 tackles and leads the team with three interceptions. Senior safety Ayron Monroe has 41 stops. In wins this season, Temple is holding opponents to fewer than 14 points per game compared to nearly 49 points per game in losses.
When Temple Has the Ball
Temple ranks just ninth in the American Athletic Conference in scoring offense and 10th in total offense while giving the ball away more than any other team in the league except for Connecticut. With all that said, the Owls are still finding ways to win games. Quarterback Anthony Russo is a 6-4, 235-pound junior with a rocket for an arm, but he can be turnover prone. Russo is at his best when he takes what the defense gives him and waits for the opportune time to try to take shots down the field.
Russo is surrounded by a nice group of skill players. Alongside the junior in the backfield are running backs Re’Mahn Davis and Gardner Jager. This season, the two have combined for more than 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Davis, a freshman, did miss last week’s win over South Florida and is questionable for Saturday. In his absence, Jager rushed for 133 yards against the Bulls. At receiver, Jadan Blue, Branden Mack, and Isaiah Wright make for a nice trio. Blue leads the team with 672 yards receiving, while Mack and Wright both have five touchdown receptions. Blue and Mack both rank in the top 10 in the AAC in receiving yards.
The Tulane defense ranks fourth in the AAC in both total and scoring defense. The Green Wave aren’t adept at generating a pass rush or forcing turnovers, but they aren’t giving up many big plays, either. Defensive end Patrick Johnson is the best that Tulane has up front. In the secondary, safeties Chase Kuerschen and P.J. Hall are the top two tacklers. Hall has one of Tulane’s two defensive touchdowns this season.
Through the air, Tulane is yielding under 200 yards per game and holding opponents to a completion rate of under 53 percent. Hall and fellow safety Larry Brooks each have two interceptions this year. Hall also leads the team with a pair of forced fumbles.
Saturday’s contest in Philadelphia will likely come down to how well Temple can contain the Tulane ground attack. Justin McMillan is one of the AAC’s most talented quarterbacks, but the Owls have had more trouble containing passers such as SMU’s Shane Buechele, Memphis’ Brady White, and UCF’s Dillon Gabriel than the more mobile types. Temple also happens to be at home, where it is 4-1 this season with wins over Maryland, Memphis, and Georgia Tech. Under Fritz, Tulane is just 6-16 in road games.
Prediction: Temple 28, Tulane 24
(Top photo courtesy of @GreenWaveFB)