To say Temple was once tied for the Big East lead after winning its first two games sounds almost unbelievable at this point. Reality has set in for the Owls, as they have lost their last three games by a combined 83 points. Ever since they came out for the second half against Rutgers with a 10-0 lead, their defense has not showed up, giving up 38 points a game and allowing 45 or more in their last two games.
The Owls are looking to bounce back as they take on the Cincinnati Bearcats at home on Saturday afternoon. They have really gotten into the meat of their Big East schedule, playing ranked teams in two out of their last three games. On Saturday, they get another team that is right on the border of being ranked as the Bearcats sit at 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big East coming off a convincing win over Syracuse.
Coach Steve Addazio said in his weekly press conference that he believes there are a lot of positives to take away from these losses. "We are a handful of plays away from being a good team, we showed that we can go blow for blow against these teams but we just can not finish quarters very well. We are a young team and a little thin right now, closing quarters out will come with time".
Senior running back Montel Harris is still putting up great numbers, even during this three game losing streak. He has averaged over 100 yards on the ground in the last five games and has been the lone spark on the offensive side. Quarterback Chris Coyer has struggled immensely, as he has put the ball on the ground five times in the last three games, which has landed him on the bench in the 4th quarter in all three of those games. I am not sure how many chances he is going to get, but Addazio has always been really high on Coyer and it is tough for him to make a change. If it was ever time to make that change, this is the week. It can be a fresh start for the final three games and it gives the Owls coaching staff a chance to look at options for next year.
The Owls will have to stop a potent Bearcats running game, as they rank 16th in the country with 226 yards a game. They are led on the ground by senior George Winn, who has rushed for almost 900 yards with seven touchdowns. They have two other players who have 50 carries or more, including their duel threat quarterback Munchie Legaux, who has accumulated 335 yards rushing. He is also having a good year passing the ball, as he has accounted for 13 touchdowns threw the air with just under 2,000 passing yards.
It will be a challenge for the Owl's to snap their losing streak on Saturday. They are a very young team that makes mistakes at the worst times. They also are not very deep in a lot of positions, so they get fatigued in the second half of games. Their defense will have to show up and make some stops on third downs to limit the time of possession for the Bearcats. Their linebackers need to step up, as they have been getting torched in the middle of the field. Whoever starts at quarterback needs to control the game and win the turnover battle for Temple to have any chance of winning.
In the end, I believe Cincinnati's running game will be too much to handle for the Owls thin defense. The Bearcats have too many options on the offensive side and Temple's offense is not consistent enough to go blow for blow with a high powered offense like Cincinnati's. I believe it will be a close game through three quarters, but as Addazio always speaks about, the Owls will be winded late and not be able to wrap up George Winn, leading to a couple 4th quarter touchdowns.
Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Temple 17