The Temple Owls have made quite a splash since joining the newly formed AAC in 2013. That first year in their new conference the Owls finished just 2-10 with a 1-7 record in league play.
The improved to 6-6 with a 4-4 record in the American in 2014. They continued their uphill climb in 2015. The Owls won the East Division with a 7-1 conference record and would finish the regular season 10-2.
They would go on to lose 13-24 to Houston in the AAC title game and 17-32 to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl. Giving them an overall record of 10-4. Their first 10+ win season since going 10-2 back in 1979.
The Owls opened the season a perfect 7-0 before losing a heartbreaker to Notre Dame at home 20-24. It was the deepest Temple has gone without a loss.
A big reason for the Owls climb in the American Athletic is head coach Matt Rhule. He’s completely turned this program around. The only concern for Owls fans is the success may come at a price and Rhule may get a call from a bigger school. Either way, he’ll be in charge for 2016 and Temple has a legit shot at defending their East title.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|9/17||@ Penn State|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
The schedule certainly sets up well for another strong season for the Owls. Temple should get off to a strong start. They will be heavy favorites in their first two games at Army and Stony Brook.
Their biggest challenge may come in week 3, when they travel to State College to take on Penn State. A team they beat last year in the opener 27-10. They conclude non-conference play the following week with another easy home game against Charlotte.
Heading into AAC play, the Owls should be sitting at no worse than 3-1. The good news is the conference portion of the schedule sets up nicely.
Temple gets their two biggest threats in the East at home in Cincinnati and USF. The Owls won at Cincinnati last year 34-26, but lost at USF 23-44.
They also avoid having to play Houston out of the West, who most consider the best team in the conference.
Winning on the road is never easy, but the Owls catch a break. Their toughest road game is at Memphis. The other 3 are against UCF, UConn and Tulane, who went a combined 5-19 in the ACC last season.
One of the keys to Temple’s success in 2015 was they were one of the most experienced teams in the country. The Owls had 19 returning starters with 49 lettermen back.
This year they only have 12 starters (6 on each side of the ball) and 39 lettermen returning. While not as experienced overall, there’s a lot of talent on the roster.
Temple didn’t have the most explosive offense in 2015, as the defense really carried the load. The Owls only averaged 367 ypg. For them to match last year’s success in the win column, the offense will need to do more.
The good news is they get back senior starting quarterback P.J. Walker. He’s got 33 career starts under his belt and will leave as the school’s all-time passing leader. Walker wasn’t bad this past season, but will likely need to do more in 2016.
That won’t be easy with the loss of his favorite target in Robby Anderson. Last year, Anderson had 70 catches for 939 yards and 7 touchdowns. The next best was Ventell Bryant with 39 receptions for 579 yards and 3 scores.
Temple does figure to be able to take some of the pressure off Walker with the running game. The Owls return star running back Jahad Thomas, who rushed for 1,262 years and 17 touchdowns.
They also get back 4 offensive linemen with 7 or more starts in a season. That includes star left tackle Dion Dawkins (1st All-AAC). Plus, they are raving about red-shirt freshmen guard Jovahn Fair.
The defense figures to be one of the best in the AAC again, as 6 of their top 8 tacklers are back. However, they don’t figure to be as good as last year. That’s because they have to replace stud linebacker Tyler Matakevich. He led the team with 138 tackles (next best 74) and was 2nd on the team with 4.5 sacks.
The other big concern, is they don’t look as strong in the trenches. The losses of Matt Ioannidis (DT) and Nate Smith (DE) will be tough to overcome. Smith led the team with 7 sacks and Ioannidis was second to Matakevich with 8 tackles for loss.
Two more key players depart in the secondary, including 1st-Team All-AAC safety Alex Wells. The other being corner Tavon Young, who was selected in the 4th round of the NFL draft.
The good news is they have a lot of talent returning in the defensive backfield. The best of the bunch is junior safety Sean Chandler. Also keep an eye on sophomore corner Derrek Thomas and sophomore safety Delvon Randall.
Regular Season Win Total
AAC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
I’ll admit that I’m probably underestimating Rhule and the Owls in 2016. I just think Temple is primed for a letdown this season. No longer is this team flying under the radar. They have a big target on their back and will get the best each opponent has to offer in the AAC.
My biggest concern is the offense being able to produce at a higher level, to make up for the losses on defense. While the road schedule may be easy inside the conference, you have to be able to score to win away from home.
Temple did go 5-1 on the road during the regular season last year, but a number of those were closer than expected. That includes a 2-point win at UMass, who finished 3-9.
I have them losing at Penn State early one of their two home games against USF or Cincinnati and two more on the road in league play. That leaves them with a respectable 5-3 record in the ACC and 8-4 mark overall.
As you might expect, I think there’s some value with the Owls going UNDER their win total of 9. For you to lose, they would have to match last year’s 10-2 record. That’s asking a lot for a team that has just two 10-win seasons in their program’s history.
American Athletic (East)
American Athletic Record
Win Total Prediction