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Tulane looks like a breeze for Temple, but don’t count on it

Tulane is 0-4 in the AAC, but two losses were by three points each to SMU and Navy, two quality teams.

Temple cornerback Linwood Crump is impressed with Tulane's QB.
Temple cornerback Linwood Crump is impressed with Tulane's QB.Read moreMatthew Hinton / AP

Temple coach Rod Carey has called this week’s opponent, Tulane, “a good football team.” The Green Wave’s record (2-4, and 0-4 American Athletic Conference) suggests otherwise, but they have played better than that mark.

Temple (1-2, 1-2) will be facing a Green Wave team that has lost two of its games by three points each, to SMU and Navy. The Owls lost, 31-29, at Navy.

So Temple, coming off last week’s 41-29 loss at Memphis, will have its work cut out. Here are some of the key points to the game.

Who will start at quarterback for Temple?

Normally that is a given. Redshirt senior Anthony Russo has made 17 consecutive starts, and 26 in his career. But he had an MRI on his shoulder Monday, didn’t practice this week, and is considered a game-time decision.

Redshirt sophomores Trad Beatty and Re-al Mitchell, the transfer from Iowa State, are both listed as the backups, with neither ahead of the other. Neither has played this year. Beatty is more familiar with the system, having been here last year in the first season under Carey. Mitchell is considered a dual threat, although Beatty, a left-hander, has good mobility.

Russo has shown great toughness during his time at Temple, and if he is able to go, the one question is whether he will be hindered by the lack of practice.

Can the Owls confuse Tulane’s quarterback?

A true freshman, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Michael Pratt played the last four games for the Green Wave. In last week’s 51-34 loss at Central Florida, he threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns, both personal bests.

“He’s a pretty good quarterback from what we have seen on film,” Temple cornerback Linwood Crump said. “ … He does make some good decisions, he’s still very young, so I mean we have to see that ourselve. But I think he is a pretty decent quarterback.”

Don’t be surprised if Temple gives some complex looks on defense to see if Pratt can handle them.

Containing the Green Wave defensive ends

Russo has been sacked four times this season, but they all came against Memphis. He did attempt 63 passes in that game. This week, the Owls could face an even greater pass rush, led by senior Patrick Johnson (6-3, 255), who has six sacks and 20.5 for his career. Defensive end Cameron Sample (6-3, 280) has 8.5 tackles for losses, including two sacks.

Temple offensive tackles Isaac Moore and Michael Niese will be under a lot of pressure. In addition, Vincent Picozzi, who has played both guard and tackle, could see action at tackle, taking on these talented Tulane pass rushers on the edge.

Can Tulane keep up with Temple’s receivers?

Temple will be without its top two tight ends, David Martin-Robinson (COVID protocol) and Darius Pittman, who suffered an injury last week. Aaron Jarman (6-6, 250) will get the start. Regardless of the tight end, opponents have had trouble dealing with Temple’s top three receivers: redshirt junior Jadan Blue (27 receptions, 220 yards, 5 TDs) and graduate students Branden Mack (16-173-3) and Randle Jones (24-247-1).

Tulane is 10th in the 11-team AAC in pass defense, allowing 326 passing yards per game. That’s a major advantage for Temple.

Stopping the Tulane ground game

The Green Wave entered the weekend leading the AAC in rushing offense, averaging 212 yards per game, and a healthy 4.7 yards per carry. Senior Stephon Huderson (397 yards rushing, 6.8 avg., 3 TDs) and sophomore Cameron Carroll (341, 4.8, 7) are the main threats, but there are others. Temple defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh has not played up to his all-conference form, but he had his best game last week. Maijeh and fellow tackle Dan Archibong will have to be the keys to stopping the run for the Owls.

The pick

Temple averages 32.3 points and Tulane averages 36.0, so this looks like it should be high-scoring. The key is the Owls’ stopping the run and forcing Pratt to beat them. If that is the case, the Green Wave will be in trouble. No matter who is at quarterback, the Owls have to throw the ball against Tulane, which must prove it can stop the pass.

Prediction: Temple 32, Tulane 27