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12 Up, 12 Down: Temple Owls

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Can the Bulls stop the bleeding when heading to the City of Brotherly Love?

Temple v Houston
Y’all remember Rock Armstead? Yeah, he’s still here...
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Opponent: Temple Owls

2018 Record: 6-4, 5-1 AAC

Head Coach: Geoff Collins, 2nd Season (13-10)

Date/Time/Location: Saturday, November 17 at 12 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA

How To Watch/Listen: ESPNews, 820 AM, Bulls Unlimited, iHeartRadio

Series History: The series is tied 2-2. The Bulls destroyed Temple 43-7 in Tampa last year in one of the biggest revenge games in program history.

Background

Mired in the program’s first three-game losing streak since 2015, things do not get easier for Charlie Strong and USF on Saturday when heading up to East division foe Temple.

After a lukewarm 2-3 start that included losses to FCS Villanova, Buffalo and Boston College at the beginning of the season, the Owls have caught fire in the latter portion of their schedule by winning four of their last five contests.

They reached bowl eligibility last Saturday with a 59-49 shootout win at Houston.

Temple Depth Chart

USF Depth Chart

S&P+ Breakdown

Team S&P+ (Overall) S&P+ (USF O vs. Temple D) S&P+ (USF D vs. Temple O) S&P+ (ST)
Team S&P+ (Overall) S&P+ (USF O vs. Temple D) S&P+ (USF D vs. Temple O) S&P+ (ST)
USF 58 32 73 100
Temple 38 29 50 105

Heading into Saturday’s matchup at the Linc, TU holds the S&P+ advantage across the board except for special teams.

Ranked 106th overall after the week one loss to Nova, Geoff Collins’ team has steadily risen up over the course of the season, hovering around the mid to high 30’s and low 40’s for the past month.

Meanwhile, Charlie Strong’s bunch from Tampa has trended downward in S&P+ for well over a month. Since their inexplicable Friday night win at Tulsa, USF has fallen from 27 to their original preseason rank of 58. And it could get even worse...

When Temple Runs...

Unit Rushing S&P+ Rushing Effieciency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
Unit Rushing S&P+ Rushing Effieciency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
Temple Offense 38 42 90 79 70
USF Defense 95 112 92 83 64

Y’all remember Ryquell “Rock” Armstead, right? You know, the guy that ran for 210 yards and two touchdowns against USF two years ago in a 46-30 win that ruined the Bulls’ chance at a division title?

Yeah, he’s still here and...*checks notes*...still really good.

That’s right, he ran for SIX touchdowns at Houston last week. Granted, the Cougars were once again without Ed Oliver (who’s probably already played his last snap in a UH uniform), but still a really impressive showing.

The senior out of Millville, N.J., is sitting just 22 yards shy of a 1,000 yard season and is doing so behind a relatively young offensive line where right guard Jaelin Robinson is the only senior starter.

Also getting in on the ground action has been senior fullback Rob Ritrovato (replacing the hated Nick Sharga) and quarterback Anthony Russo, who we’ll get to in a minute.

On the flip side, the Bulls’ rush defense has been gashed as of late, allowing a 130+ yard performance from an individual rusher in each of their last four contests.

The absence of Nico Sawtelle over the past month has certainly played a huge role in the team’s struggles and it doesn’t get any better having to try to bring down Armstead.

When Temple Passes...

Unit Passing S&P+ Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
Unit Passing S&P+ Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
Temple Offense 24 44 70 94 12
USF Defense 39 21 87 29 17

In recent episodes of Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody, Bill Connelly (the inventor and proprietor of the S&P+ analytics system in case you haven’t heard) has noted how sometime, an entire offseason’s work of evaluation can be undone with just a few games. How you can roll into a season with one starter in mind, play a few games, realize you made the wrong choice and adjust accordingly.

That seems to be what happened with Temple early in the season as after just two games, starting quarterback Frank Nutile was benched in favor of Anthony Russo.

Russo hasn’t been spectacular through the air, but he’s been effective, throwing for just over 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing roughly 58% of his passes.

His best performance came during their Thursday night loss at C. two weeks ago, going 31-of-52 passing for 444 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions while also running for 46 yards and a score on the ground.

Another #Stillintheleague? candidate USF fans will become familiar with once again is senior wideout and Tampa Jefferson alum Ventell Bryant, who has 565 yards on 42 catches and three touchdowns this season.

Also receiving a high volume of targets are junior Isaiah Wright and sophomore Branden Mack, both of whom have combined for over 800 yards and eight touchdowns.

The USF secondary has been burnt to a crisp over the past three weeks, but still ranks as a top-40 unit in defensive passing S&P+.

Once again, their ability to get off the field and third-and-long will play a factor in their success. They rank 124th in third-and-long success rate.

When USF Runs...

Unit Rushing S&P+ Rushing Effieciency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
Unit Rushing S&P+ Rushing Effieciency Run Explosiveness Opportunity Rate Stuff Rate
USF Offense 39 26 18 36 42
Temple Defense 54 60 50 57 89

South Florida’s once effective run game has stalled out as of late with both Jordan Cronkrite and Johnny Ford being held to under 100 yards in the Tulane in Cincinnati losses.

Strong did indicate during his press conference on Monday that the team will get Duran Bell back, but we’ll see how much he’s used on Saturday (if he travels at all).

Temple’s run D has held steady in the upper half of college football this season. Senior defensive tackle Michael Dogbe is responsible for 17 run stuffs and seven sacks this fall while Quincy Roche and Zack Mesday have been effective in providing pressure off the edge.

When USF Passes...

Unit Passing S&P+ Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
Unit Passing S&P+ Pass Efficiency Pass Explosiveness Pass Completion Rate Sack Rate
USF Offense 79 39 87 67 91
Temple Defense 3 20 18 13 47

Quarterback Blake Barnett missed last Saturday’s road game at Cincy with a shoulder injury and it remains unclear if he’ll make his return this week.

If that’s the case, we’ll see more of Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean, who got finally got to play their first meaningful snaps in the Bulls’ 35-23 loss at the Bearcats.

The duo combined to go 14-of-32 for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Not spectacular by any means, but not terrible. AKA, par for the course for the USF offense as of late.

It does not help that they’ll be going up against one of the more effective pass defenses in the nation. The Owls are third in pass defense S&P+.

Senior cornerback Rock Ya-Sin has 14 passes defensed (two interceptions and 12 breakups) while senior safety Dalvon Randall has seven (two interceptions and five breakups). Also look out for junior nickel Sam Franklin lurking.

Predictions

Betting lines have Temple -13.5 while S&P+ projects the Owls to win by roughly a touchdown with a 65% chance at victory.

Sounds about right.

Once again, you have a conference battle of two teams going in opposite directions. Home Temple, who is still technically alive for a division title, and visiting USF, who’s struggles have been well documented on this very website.

The slide continues, Armstead goes off yet again and the Bulls ride a four-game losing streak into Black Fr...man, I don’t even want to think about that game just yet.

USF 20, Temple 41