Amid injuries and players in COVID-19 protocol, Temple (1-3, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) is a 17.5-point underdog facing No. 18 SMU (6-1, 3-1) in Saturday’s noon game at Lincoln Financial Field. This is a game where a lot of points are expected to be scored, but they might only be by one team. Here are some of the questions leading into the game.
Can Temple stop SMU?
Last year, SMU quarterback Shane Buechele threw for 457 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-21 win over Temple at Dallas. SMU’s offense might be better this season. Last week, the Mustangs beat Navy, 51-37. It was the third time SMU has scored 50 or more points this season. The only other time SMU had three or more 50-point games was in 1928.
What’s difficult is that this isn’t just a team that can chuck it around. Freshman Ulysses Bentley leads the Mustangs with 695 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
SMU is so dangerous that the Mustangs continue to pile up points despite losing two of its best offensive performers to season-ending injuries: running back TJ McDaniel and receiver Reggie Roberson.
Temple is banged up at linebacker and the secondary. It’s hard to think that Owls will be able to hold the Mustangs under 40.
Can Temple keep up by scoring?
Probably not. Quarterback Anthony Russo will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury. Redshirt sophomores Trad Beatty and Re-al Mitchell will alternate each series for the second straight week. It didn’t yield success in last week’s 38-3 loss at Tulane. Coach Rod Carey says that if one of his quarterbacks gets hot, he will stick with that player.
The Owls also will be without top running back Re’Mahn Davis, who left the team on Wednesday and entered the transfer portal. Redshirt senior Tayvon Ruley (102 rushing yards, 4.9 average) will get an expanded role, and he appears up for the task.
One area where the Owls remain dangerous is at receiver with Jadan Blue (31 receptions, 271 yards, 5 TDs), Randle Jones (29-284-1), and Branden Mack (19-227-3).
Can the rotating QBs work?
That remains to be seen. It didn’t work last week when the Owls scored three points against a Tulane team that entered the contest allowing 35.3 points per game.
It was the first significant playing time for both Beatty and Mitchell, and it looked like it. Now with their feet wet, they will look to improve.
A two-quarterback system rarely works, so Carey is hoping that one will seize the job until Russo returns.
What about Temple’s morale?
The Owls have been ravaged by injury and have lost their past two games at Memphis and Tulane by a combined 79-32 score.
Jones, who has emerged as one of the team’s leaders, insisted earlier this week that there is not a problem with morale.
“The morale is still the same, the goal is still the same, it won’t be changing," he said.
What must Temple do to be competitive?
Run the ball. The Owls have to keep the SMU offense off the field. In addition to Ruley, redshirt freshman Edward Saydee, who has four carries this year, should see a bigger load.
Starting guard Adam Klein has missed three games this season due to injury, but he returned to practice on Monday. If he is able to play, that should help, especially in the running game. Temple is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, and that was with Davis. The Owls must have a better average.
SMU’s only loss was served up at home Oct. 24 by current No. 6 Cincinnati, 42-13 The only thing that can derail the Mustangs in this game is overconfidence. If SMU doesn’t overlook Temple, then this should not be a very competitive game.
Prediction: SMU 48, Temple 17.