Know the Foe: Temple
A look at No. 21 Temple, which faces USF on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium
Record: 8-1, 5-0 American Athletic Conference
Wins: 27-10 vs. Penn State, 34-26 at Cincinnati, 25-23 at Massachusetts, 37-3 at Charlotte, 49-10 vs. Tulane, 30-16 vs. UCF, 24-14 at East Carolina, 60-40 at SMU
Loss: 24-20 vs. Notre Dame
Coach: Matt Rhule (third season, 16-17)
The breakdown: The Owls' no-frills, no-finesse approach stands to reason; Rhule moved to State College, Pa., as a teen and played linebacker for Joe Paterno. Unlike Paterno's defenses, the Owls typically employ a 4-3 look. Sizeable in some areas, small in others and disciplined everywhere, the Owls lead the American in total defense (335.3 ypg) and are tied for third nationally with 15 interceptions. Senior WLB Tyler Matakevich, the NCAA's active career tackles leader (442), is the bell cow, but fellow senior DT Matt Ioannidis (3.5 sacks) isn't shabby. Offensively, the Owls' conventional look (including some I-formation) stands in glaring contrast to the league's litany of spread looks. Unlike the spread teams, who shun substitution to keep the tempo brisk, Temple will use assorted personnel groups. Junior QB P.J. Walker (143-
for-243, 1,769 yards, 14 TDs, four INTs) could notch his third consecutive 2,000-yard passing season Saturday, but the catalyst is junior RB Jahad Thomas (AAC-best 970 rushing yards, 14 TDs). "He's not Dalvin Cook, but he's the next best that we've played," Bulls defensive coordinator Tom Allen said.
Odds and ends: The Owls' current streak of four consecutive weeks being ranked in both major polls is a program record. ... Jefferson High alumnus Ventell Bryant, a redshirt freshman, returns to Tampa as the Owls' second-leading receiver (28 catches, 371 yards, two TDs). ... Temple's average time of possession is 32:30, which ranks 22nd nationally. ... The Owls are 10-0 over the last two seasons when leading at halftime.
Taggart's take: "He's everywhere and he runs around and he's tough. He's the heart of the defense. You see it in the way he plays and all the tackles he makes. He's a football player. When you see a football player, that's what you think of when you see this kid play. He's consistent and he does it year-in, year-out, and day-in, day-out, game-in, game-out. He's that guy. We've got to know where he's at all the time and we've got to put a body on a body." -- on Matakevich