This week’s college football schedule features a vital game in the American Athletic Conference between the Temple Owls and the no. 20 Cincinnati Bearcats. Kickoff is set for noon EST on Saturday, October 20, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Fans can watch the game on ESPNU.
Temple opened the week favored by 3.5 points. However, the line has moved slightly, with the Owls now 4-point favorites at home. Be sure to check out all of this week’s college football odds.
The Bearcats enter this game undefeated at 6-0 on the season. The caveat is they haven’t played a difficult schedule. Cincinnati’s most impressive win this season may have come in their season opener against UCLA, a team that’s just 1-5.
Nevertheless, the Bearcats are ranked in the top-25 and one of four teams in the AAC East division that is undefeated in conference play. Obviously, that situation should sort itself out when these those four teams start playing one another, starting this week when the Bearcats travel to play Temple.
The Owls are just 4-3 overall, including a loss to intra-city rival Villanova, an FCS program. However, Temple is 3-0 in conference play with wins over East Carolina and Navy the past two weeks and a win over Tulsa earlier in the season. The Owls have been a little overlooked this season. But keep in mind they have a win over Maryland on their resume, so they’ve proven they can beat good teams.
It’s also worth noting that Temple has beaten Cincinnati in each of the last three seasons. Those three wins have come by an average of almost 13 points, a trend Cincinnati will have to stop if they hope to remain undefeated.
I’ll admit that Cincinnati’s schedule is questionable at best. But going 6-0 isn’t that easy no matter who you play. With that in mind, I’m surprised to see them as an underdog in this game, even on the road. Temple may be the better team, but I’m not convinced that’s the case. I’ll lean toward the Bearcats to keep this game close enough to beat the spread, even if they suffer their first loss of the season.
To me, the thing that stands out the most about the Bearcats this season is the play of freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder. He’s a true dual-threat quarterback who’s been accurate throwing the ball and a threat to make plays with his legs. Ridder has made impressive strides from the start of the season, accumulating 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions while completing 66% of his passes. That’s impressive efficiency, especially for a freshman who has also scored a rushing touchdown in each of his last four games.
While Temple has played some quality teams this season, I don’t think their defense has faced a quarterback with Ridder’s skill set. He’s bound to pose some problems for the Owls. The Temple defense will also have to contend with Cincy running back Michael Warren, who’s averaging 5.4 yards per carry and has been at his best the last few weeks after conference play started. When Temple has been vulnerable defensively this season, it’s usually come against good running teams. Considering that Cincinnati has a quarterback who can be dangerous on the ground, this may not be a great matchup for the Owls.
On the other side of the ball, I also have some questions about the Temple offense. Anthony Russo has taken the reigns at quarterback and been outstanding the last two weeks. However, he had some shaky moments earlier in the season and still has more interceptions than touchdown passes on the season. In fact, if you take away Temple’s blowout of East Carolina, Russo has just two touchdowns and six interceptions this year.
Equally important is a Temple rushing attack that’s averaging less than four yards per carry this season. Even with difficult games against teams like Maryland and Boston College on their schedule, it’s disappointing to see the Owls struggle on the ground. To make matters worse, running back Ryquell Armstead, who missed last week’s game due to an injury, is still questionable to play against Cincinnati. Without him, there are serious concerns about Temple’s running game.
The kicker is that the Owls will be facing a Cincinnati defense that’s giving up less than 14 points per game. Again, the team’s schedule is a factor in their excellent defensive numbers. Keep in mind that Tulane managed to score 21 points against the Bearcats last week while Ohio put up 30 points on the board against Cincy last month. However, Cincinnati’s defensive prowess is still tough to ignore. I expect the Temple offense to have some success, but the Cincinnati defense will still be one of the best they’ve faced this season.
All things considered, it’s tough to swallow the points in Temple’s favor. That doesn’t mean I’m sold on Cincinnati, but I still have questions about Temple on both sides of the ball. I’m going to bet this game ends up being decided by a field goal, which means taking Cincinnati as the underdog is the smart play.