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Temple ready for fireworks when facing UCF offense

Slowing down the UCF offense, which is averaging 45 points per game, will be the biggest challenge for Temple.

Temple quarterback Re-al Mitchell is tackled by SMU lineman Junior Aho in Saturday's loos.
Temple quarterback Re-al Mitchell is tackled by SMU lineman Junior Aho in Saturday's loos.Read moreLaurence Kesterson / AP

Temple faces the most difficult of tasks when the Owls (1-4 overall and in the American Athletic Conference) visit Central Florida (4-2, 3-2) in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. game in Orlando that will be televised on ESPNU.

The Owls' recent history in UCF suggests the defense could be in a for a long night. UCF has won the last three meetings, averaging 53.3 points per game.

Here are some of the questions facing the Owls, who are coming off last week’s 47-23 loss to SMU at Lincoln Financial Field.

Can Temple stop the UCF offense?

In a word, no, but neither can just about any other team. The Knights, who had a bye last week, are ninth among Football Bowl Subdivision schools, averaging 45 points per game.

Sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel is the FBS leader in passing yards per game (417). He has thrown 21 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

In last year’s 63-21 loss to UCF at Lincoln Financial Field, Gabriel had an ordinary game – for him. He completed 10 of 20 passes for 218 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Knights rushed for 385 yards (8.0 avg.) and five touchdowns. This year the Knights are averaging 234 rushing yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry. Four different players have 40 or more carries, including Gabriel. Senior speedster Greg McCrae is the leader, having rushed for 496 yards (5.6 avg.) and five touchdowns.

Whether in the air or on the ground, UCF’s up-tempo offense will present plenty of problems for Temple.

Will Temple be able to score consistently on UCF?

There are a few factors that will determine this. Quarterback Anthony Russo, who missed the previous two games due to a shoulder injury, returned to practice Tuesday. Coach Rod Carey says if Russo is healthy then he will be the starter. If not, then redshirt sophomore Re-al Mitchell, who passed for 82 yards and a score and ran for 66 yards against SMU, would get the start.

Temple will also be without injured receiver Randle Jones, who had a 75-yard touchdown reception in the first play from scrimmage last week against SMU.

The UCF defense is allowing 31 points per game, but four defensive team members were kicked off the team following an Oct. 29 arrest.

Senior defensive back Antwan Collier was charged with carrying a concealed firearm and driving with a suspended license. Collier and three players in his car where thrown off the team.

The Knights earned an impressive 44-21 win at Houston in the first game without the four defensive players (who were held out of the game and kicked off the team the next week).

Can the Owls avoid the big plays of Richie Grant?

UCF senior Richie Grant is one of the best safeties in the country. He has team-highs of 43 tackles and three interceptions. Grant is a big-play performer and the Owls should do their best not to throw in his direction.

What is the best route for the Temple offense?

Even though UCF is allowing 283.7 passing yards per game, which is just ninth in the AAC, the best way to attack the Knights is on the ground. UCF is allowing 190 yards per game rushing.

That makes Temple redshirt running back Tayvon Ruley a central figure. The Owls have to keep the Knights offense off the field and the best way is to establish the run. Ruley rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown in 15 carries against SMU.

The prediction

Temple has to hope that UCF is rusty coming off a bye, but don’t count on it. The Knights' lowest scoring game was in a 34-26 loss to Tulsa. The Knights have scored 49 or more points in four games. Temple simply can’t keep up with this type of offense.

Prediction: UCF 48, Temple 21