It is hard to believe that almost a year has passed since Notre Dame entered Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Temple Owls. Fast forward to 2016 and a game with even more importance will take place on Friday night when Temple hosts South Florida. The winner of this game will have the inside track in clinching an AAC East Division title and a spot in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. If Temple’s offense wants to be successful, they will have to find a way to neutralize the USF defensive line and linebackers.
“I really like their D-line” Temple Head Coach Matt Rhule said during Tuesday’s press conference. “All those guys are big, strong and physical. Auggie (Sanchez) is an all-conference type player who makes a lot of tackles. They also have kids in the secondary that can make plays on the ball. Last year, they jumped a lot of routes and were all over us. They are an aggressive defense that brings blitzes from everywhere. They move their front. They are just a good football team.”
USF’s “Gulf Coast Offense” is led by the combination of quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack. Both Flowers and Mack have created one of the most dangerous read-option combinations in the conference. Both possess above average speed. Temple cannot afford to miss tackles. Flowers also can throw the ball effectively to skilled receivers who are also fast.
USF implores a 4-2-5 defense, meaning four defensive linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs. The defensive attack is spearheaded by middle linebacker Auggie Sanchez. The junior linebacker is tied for the conference lead in total tackles, fourth in tackles for loss. Even though the Bulls use the 4-2-5, he still commands the defense. He can quickly diagnose a play and has the speed to make plays.
The other linebacker, Nigel Harris, also can disrupt plays and has the ability to cover running back out of the backfield. One thing that will be interesting to watch for when Temple is on offense is how the interior offensive linemen contain USF defensive tackle Deadrin Senat. Senat can be disruptive and not only against the run, he has the ability to make it difficult for Phillip Walker to step up cleanly in the pocket.
The best way for the Owls to win the game is to control the clock and keep USF’s big play offense off of the field. The Bulls offense leads the AAC in plays over 20 yards (44). In contrast, the Bulls are last in the conference in time of possession (26:15). The Owls will have to sustain drives and stay out of third and long situations. Temple has converted only 32 percent of their third down conversions. One way they can stay out of these situations is to eliminate the procedure penalties that has at times slowed the rhythm of the offense.
This game should be entertaining and give not only the fans in attendance and watching across the nation a good show. A lot can happen between now and the end of the season. However, do not be surprised to see the winner playing on December 3rd and possibly hosting the championship game.