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Temple at No. 17 Cincinnati: Five things to watch

A key for Temple is stopping the run and forcing Cincinnati to pass the ball.

Michael Warren is part of a potent two-pronged running attack for Cincinnati.
Michael Warren is part of a potent two-pronged running attack for Cincinnati.Read moreMike Carlson / AP

With two games remaining in the regular season, Temple remains alive in the American Athletic Conference East Division race.

The Owls will play Saturday at Cincinnati, which can clinch the division title with a victory. Temple is two games behind the Bearcats with two to go, but Cincinnati has to travel next week to No. 18 Memphis, while the Owls will be heavily favored at home against UConn.

UCF is also in the mix, tied for second with Temple with two games left.

Before looking at those scenarios, Temple must win at Cincinnati to make that 12th regular-season game meaningful. Here are five things to watch in the game:

Making the Bearcats pass

Last year in Temple’s 24-17 overtime win over the previously unbeaten Bearcats, current Cincinnati redshirt sophomore Desmond Ridder completed just 11 of 33 passes for 111 yards and an interception. If Ridder has to attempt 30 passes Saturday, the Bearcats will be in trouble. He has great agility and can hurt the Owls with his legs, but last week in completing just 9 of 18 passes for 78 yards in a last-second, 20-17 win at South Florida, Ridder didn’t look confident passing the ball.

Cincinnati is 102nd nationally in passing offense, averaging 191.2 yards. Ridder has thrown 17 TD passes and seven interceptions, so he could get hot, but the Owls would rather he beat them with his arm than having to deal with the Bearcats’ ground game.

Cincinnati’s two-headed monster

Cincinnati has two backs who can punish opponents: juniors Michael Warren and Gerrid Doaks. Warren has rushed for 833 yards (4.8 avg.) and 10 touchdowns. Last year, he ran for 132 yards and a 24-yard touchdown against Temple on 25 carries. It often takes multiple tacklers to bring down the 5-foot-11, 222-pound Warren.

Doaks (6-0, 230) is another tough player to bring down. He has rushed for 424 yards (5.8 avg.) and five touchdowns.

Temple’s own monster, Quincy Roche

That is how his teammates describe the 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end who over the last two weeks has 18 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. This is the best two-game streak of his career, and he has been the leading force in Temple’s two-game win streak.

For the season, Roche ranks seventh nationally and first in the AAC with 9.5 sacks. He is on a major roll, and no doubt Cincinnati will game-plan to stop him, which should open things up for his teammates.

Change of pace with Todd Centeio

Centeio, Temple’s dual-threat quarterback, has appeared in two designated series per game for the past seven contests. In the past two games, the redshirt sophomore has led the Owls to a first-half touchdown, throwing a scoring pass to tight end Kenny Yeboah each time.

Centeio is a change of pace from Anthony Russo, who likes to operate in the pocket. In his short time, Centeio has provided a spark, and he’s another dimension for which Cincinnati has to prepare.

The tight ends

Both teams’ tight ends could be major factors.

Yeboah, who has been underutilized most of his career at Temple, had five receptions for 63 yards and two scores in last week’s 29-21 win over Tulane. The week before, he caught a 1-yard scoring pass from Centeio. At 6-5 and 240 pounds, he has the speed to run by linebackers and size to jump over cornerbacks.

Cincinnati’s Josiah DeGuara (6-3, 240) has 30 receptions for 424 yards and seven touchdowns. He is the second-leading tight end in school history with 83 receptions for 1,037 yards and 12 TDs. No. 1 in school history is former Eagle Brent Celek with 91 receptions for 1,135 yards and 14 TDs.

Temple at Cincinnati

Saturday, 7 p.m. Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati

TV/radio: ESPN2/610 ESPN.

Records: Temple (7-3, 4-2 American Athletic Conference); Cincinnati (9-1, 6-0).

Coaches: Temple, Rod Carey (7-3, 59-33 overall); Cincinnati, Luke Fickell (19-11, 30-18 overall).

Series: Temple leads, 13-7-1.