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For Temple football team, another week, another ranked opponent

After beating then-No. 23 Memphis last week, the Owls will visit No, 19 SMU on Saturday.

“We know it is going to be loud there at SMU," Temple quarterback Anthony Russo says.
“We know it is going to be loud there at SMU," Temple quarterback Anthony Russo says.Read moreLOU RABITO / Staff

This weekend, Temple will face an unbeaten, nationally ranked team that has one of the better offenses in the country, guided by a talented quarterback who began his career at a Power Five school.

Wait, wasn’t this the story line last week?

Yes, there will be similarities to last week when Temple (5-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) visits SMU (6-0, 2-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Temple is ranked No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, its first time in the Top 25 since December 2016. SMU is ranked No. 19 in both the Coaches Poll and the Associated Press Poll.

On Saturday, Temple beat then-No. 23 Memphis, 30-28, a team guided by quarterback Brady White, who began his career at Arizona State. Memphis entered the contest 5-0 and was averaging 39.8 points.

Now, the Owls will face an even higher scoring team. SMU is averaging 44.2 points, sixth among Football Bowl Subdivision schools. The Mustangs are led by quarterback Shane Buechele, a 6-foot-1, 207-pound junior and a graduate transfer from Texas.

Buechele has thrown for 1,665 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with five interceptions.

The one major difference between last week and this week is that Temple will have to travel to Dallas. The Owls’ two wins over ranked opponents this year have come at Lincoln Financial Field.

The first time this year the Owls beat a ranked team, they stumbled on the road the next week. After a 20-17 win in the second game of the year over then-No. 21 Maryland, Temple lost at Buffalo, 38-22.

At least the Owls got a chance to redeem themselves on the road two weeks ago when they won at East Carolina, 27-17. Temple gave up a touchdown on the game’s first possession before getting its footing in a nationally televised game against ECU.

That experience should benefit the Owls, even though SMU is much better than ECU.

“We know it is going to be loud there at SMU. It is going to be packed and another hostile environment,” Temple quarterback Anthony Russo said. “I think having that experience one time at ECU has prepared the guys for that atmosphere Saturday and it will help us big time.”

SMU is more than just the Buechele show. The Mustangs have one of the best receivers in the country in senior James Proche, who leads the AAC in receptions with 45 for 529 yards and seven touchdowns.

Senior Xavier Jones is third in the AAC in rushing, averaging 107.7 yards. He has 12 rushing touchdowns.

One other thing that is different from preparing for Memphis is that Temple will face a rested SMU team. The Mustangs had a bye last week after scoring a 43-37 triple-overtime win over visiting Tulsa on Oct. 5.

In that game, SMU had an improbable comeback, trailing, 30-9, entering the fourth quarter, before scoring three touchdowns to send the game to overtime.

“We needed an open date after having that emotional game against Tulsa,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said in Monday’s AAC teleconference. “The off week came at a good time.”

Temple probably would like some rest. The Owls might be getting at least back one reinforcement in their depleted secondary. Keyvone Bruton, who was ruled unable to go before kickoff Saturday, practiced Tuesday.

“We are hopeful he is able to play on Saturday,” Temple coach Rod Carey said.

The news doesn’t sound as optimistic for starting safety Benny Walls, who missed last week’s game with an upper body injury suffered in practice.

”I am not real hopeful for Benny this week,” Carey said.

Last week, redshirt junior Amir Tyler saw his most extensive action at safety and had three tackles and a key fumble recovery. This week, he’ll look to play a key role against yet another nationally ranked opponent with a high-powered offense.