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Tulane at Temple: Five things to watch

Both teams are bowl eligible with identical records.

Running back Jager Gardner (21) and the Temple Owls will face another AAC test on Saturday.
Running back Jager Gardner (21) and the Temple Owls will face another AAC test on Saturday.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

In a game Saturday between bowl-eligible teams with identical records, Temple and Tulane will look to stay in their respective division races in the American Athletic Conference, with the Owls in the East and Tulane in the West.

Temple is two games in the loss column behind Cincinnati, and Tulane is one game in the loss column behind SMU, Navy, and Memphis.

Temple will wear throwback uniforms as part of the “150 Years of College Football” celebration, commemorating the first Sugar Bowl, played between the Owls and the Green Wave on the Tulane campus in 1935.

Here are five things to watch in the game.

1. Stopping McMillan

Tulane quarterback Justin McMillan arrived at the school before last season as a graduate transfer from LSU with two years of eligibility remaining. He is 11-4 as a starter and this year is one of only three Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks to rush for at least 12 touchdowns.

McMillan is the Green Wave’s leading rusher with 488 yards (5.0 avg.). The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has also completed 60.5% of his passes for 1,703 yards and 13 touchdowns (with nine interceptions). Temple did a good job limiting dual-threat quarterback Jordan McCloud in last week’s 17-7 win at South Florida, and the Owls will need that type of effort against the multi-dimensional McMillan.

2. The Tulane ground game

Besides McMillan, Tulane has five other players who have rushed for 200 or more yards. The Green Wave are 10th nationally with 261 yards rushing per game. Corey Dalpine is second on the team in rushing with 455 yards (9.9 avg.) and four touchdowns. Senior Darius Bradwell (347 yards rushing, 4.8 avg., 1 TD) is 76 yards from 2,000 in his career. Last week, Temple held another top running team in check, allowing just 61 yards in 37 rushes to South Florida.

3. Temple’s sack-happy defensive line

Temple had nine sacks in last week’s win, with defensive end Quincy Roche accounting for 3.5. All nine came from the defensive line. Temple will be going up against a strong Tulane offensive line, which has allowed just 13 sacks this season.

4. Quarterback play for Temple

Last week, Temple’s offense accounted for just 10 points (with linebacker Sam Franklin providing the other points on a 39-yard return of a fumble for a score). It was the third straight game Temple has scored 21 or fewer points.

Coach Rod Carey said Tuesday that he thought about using backup quarterback Todd Centeio for more than his one-series appearance per half. Carey stuck with Anthony Russo, but Centeio, who has played one series in each half in five consecutive games, could be pushing for more time. He led the Owls to their only offensive TD last week, capped by a 1-yard scoring pass to tight end Kenny Yeboah.

Russo and the offense will be looking for more consistency against the Green Wave.

5. The third quarter

The only quarter that Temple has scored fewer points than its opponent has been the third, as the Owls have been outscored by 74-47. Tulane has outscored teams in all four quarters, but the biggest advantage is in the third, 76-27. How each team comes out after halftime will be interesting to see.

Tulane at Temple

Saturday, noon, Lincoln Financial Field

TV/radio: ESPNU/WPEN-FM (97.5)

Records: Tulane (6-3, 3-2 American Athletic Conference); Temple (6-3, 3-2).

Coaches: Tulane, Willie Fritz (22-24, overall, 215-98); Temple, Rod Carey (6-3, 58-33 overall).

Series: Temple leads, 3-1.