The Temple Owls will make a midweek trip to the Sunshine State in hopes of becoming bowl eligible as they square off against the South Florida Bulls. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 EST on Thursday, November 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Early betting odds list the Owls as 2-point road favorites with an over/under of 50.5 points. Don’t forget to check out a full list of the Week 11 college football odds right here.
South Florida’s season looked like a disaster in the making after a 1-3 start on the heels of USF losing six in a row to finish the 2018 season. But the Bulls have been able to get things turned around, winning three of their last four games to get to 4-4 overall. That stretch has included a win over BYU and a convincing road win over East Carolina two weeks ago.
Unfortunately, the Bulls still need two more wins to secure a bowl bid for the fifth straight season. To make matters worse, all of USF’s easiest games appear to be behind them. The Bulls still have to face Cincinnati and Memphis, both top-20 teams, as well as in-state rival Central Florida. The silver lining is that South Florida will play three of their final four games at home. It’s critical that they hold serve at Raymond James Stadium, starting Thursday against Temple.
The Owls are currently mired in a slump, losing back-to-back games after starting the season 5-1. In fairness, Temple’s two losses have come against SMU and Central Florida. However, both games have come by wide margins. The Owls have failed to build on any momentum created by their upset over Memphis last month, taking them out of the running in the AAC East division.
Much like South Florida, the Owls are facing a difficult schedule the last month of the season. Temple needs just one more win to become bowl eligible and a home date with UConn the final week of the season seems like a near-guarantee to get that win. However, the Owls don’t want the pressure of a must-win game late in the year. They also want to stop their losing skid before it gets to three games.
In the five previous meetings between Temple and South Florida, the home team has won all five games. The Owls won 27-17 in Philly a year ago. However, the Bulls won by 21- and 36-point margins in 2015 and 2017, respectively, dominating the Owls whenever they’ve flown south to Tampa.
Even after a couple of lopsided losses, I’m not ready to sell my stock in Temple. Sure, the Owls were a little vulnerable defensively against a pair of high-powered offenses in recent weeks. But I think they’re better than what they showed in those games. More importantly, South Florida isn’t at the same level as the teams Temple has played in recent weeks. In fact, the Bulls have plenty of flaws themselves. With the line at -2, I’m willing to swallow the points and take Temple as road favorites.
South Florida’s turnaround has coincided with senior quarterback Blake Barnett being benched after the SMU game in favor of freshman Jordan McCloud. With Barnett struggling, a change was certainly warranted. More importantly, McCloud has helped to provide a spark with his athleticism and running ability. But USF’s problems on offense have only been masked, they haven’t been solved, especially against good defensive teams.
The Bulls are a strong running team with McCloud at quarterback, as teams can’t focus solely on running back Jordan Cronkrite. But McCloud is only marginally better throwing the ball than Barnett was early in the season. He’s thrown four interceptions and taken eight sacks in his four starts. More importantly, he’s struggled to complete a high percentage of his passes, especially against the likes of Navy and BYU. In fact, the Bulls only managed three points in a lopsided loss to Navy.
Despite being overmatched against SMU and UCF, the Temple defense should be able to handle a South Florida offense that’s a little one-dimensional and playing a freshman quarterback who’s still prone to mistakes. Keep in mind that the Owls limited Memphis and their potent rushing attack to just 129 yards and less than four yards per carry. The Owls forced the Tigers to beat them through the air, which almost worked for Memphis but probably won’t work for South Florida.
On the other side of the ball, the Temple offense can best be described as solid but unspectacular. The Owls aren’t going to overwhelm anyone with their talent and explosiveness on offense. But Temple has a functional running game and an experienced quarterback in Anthony Russo. Meanwhile, even bad AAC teams like UConn and East Carolina managed at least 20 points against the Bulls. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to shut down the Temple offense completely, so the Owls will score points in this game.
While South Florida has made some strides in recent weeks, I’m not fully buying their turnaround. They did nothing offensively against Navy and I think the Temple defense can force McCloud into some mistakes. I like the Owls to keep this a low-scoring game and ultimately score enough points to win by at least a field goal to cover the spread.