Know the Foe: Temple

The Owls have evolved into arguably the American Athletic Conference's second-best team
Temple wide receiver Ventell Bryant (1), a Jefferson High alumnus, is the Owls' career receiving yardage leader (2,319). (AP Photo/John Raoux) FLJR110
Temple wide receiver Ventell Bryant (1), a Jefferson High alumnus, is the Owls' career receiving yardage leader (2,319). (AP Photo/John Raoux) FLJR110
Published Nov. 13, 2018

A look at Temple, which hosts USF on Saturday at Franklin Financial Field in Philadelphia

Nickame: Owls
Record: 6-4 (5-1 American Athletic Conference)
Wins: at Maryland, 35-14; Tulsa, 31-17; East Carolina, 49-6; at Navy, 24-17; Cincinnati, 24-17 (OT); at Houston, 59-49
Losses: Villanova, 19-17; Buffalo, 36-29; at Boston College, 45-35; at UCF, 52-40
Coach: Geoff Collins (second season, 13-10)
S&P+ ranking: 38th

The breakdown: The Owls' embarrassing season-opening losses to Villanova and Buffalo seem like a half-decade ago. Today, they're arguably the second-best team in the AAC, and remain in contention for the East crown. Collins' starting lineup will barely resemble the one he used in last year's embarrassing 43-7 loss to the Bulls, but that hardly connotes a youth overhaul. To the contrary, 14 upperclassmen and six redshirt sophomores started at Houston last week. Offensively, Temple likely will attempt to assert itself on the ground behind senior Ryquell Armstead (978 yards, 12 touchdowns, 5.5 ypc), who ran for 210 yards and an AAC-record six TDs at Houston. Evidently back to full strength after a midseason ankle injury, Armstead has provided the perfect complement to redshirt sophomore QB Anthony Russo (2,071 passing yards, 13 TDs, 12 INTs). A Rutgers transfer, Russo is 6-2 as Owls starter since replacing Frank Nutile three games into the season. Russo's top target, 6-foot-3 Jefferson High alumnus Ventell Bryant (42 catches, 565 yards, three TDs), became the Owls' career receiving yardage leader (2,319) with seven catches for 61 yards at Houston. Defensively, the Owls lead the nation with five defensive TDs, and have gained 17 turnovers. Temple boasts an imposing four-man front that has created steady QB pressure all year (2.6 sacks per game), leading to effective coverage by its veteran secondary. Temple ranks third in the league in passing yards allowed (181.4) and second in pass-efficiency defense (107.1). Watch for 6-3, 280-pound DT Michael Dogbe, a graduate student with seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.

Odds & ends: The Owls rank last in the AAC in penalty yards per game (76.5), a whisker above USF (76.3). … Though it scored on all eight of its red-zone possessions at Houston, Temple was only 24-for-34 in the red zone entering that game. … In addition to Bryant, the Owls roster also features former Plant City High star Jyquis Thomas, a graduate student who logs some reps at safety.

Audible: "If we win this game, we've got to go stop the run, 'cause they're gonna run the football, and they showed it last week. … They're gonna will you, they're gonna run the ball, they're gonna try to knock you off the football. And defensively, they're gonna run around and they're gonna move enough people around where they can put pressure on your quarterback." — USF coach Charlie Strong