The first two weeks of Temple’s football season, and the American Athletic Conference at large, have shown one thing above all else: The Owls will have to play a lot of offensive shoot-outs in the high-scoring American Athletic Conference.
“Seems like it, doesn’t it,” Owls coach Rod Carey said. “I mean it’s wild.”
It’s not the easiest way to win, simply having to outscore teams with oodles of weapons. At least Temple has the type of offense that can stand toe to toe with some of the AAC’s high-flying attacks.
This week, Temple is playing a team that put up 50 points last week, and won by a measly point. The Owls (1-1 overall and in the AAC) will visit Memphis (2-1, 1-1), the defending AAC champion, coming off a 50-49 thriller over Central Florida.
Welcome to the AAC, where games like this are a weekly occurrence.
And it’s not just the AAC, not by a long shot. The Big 12, for example, is notorious for games in which defense is an afterthought. The Big 12 has two teams averaging more than 40 points and five more averaging 30 or more. The AAC has two teams averaging 40 or more and six others, including Temple, averaging 30 or more.
Nationally, the AAC has seven of the top 26 teams in scoring offense, with Temple tied for 26th.
That doesn’t say a lot of good things about the league’s defense, and the AAC has eight of its 11 teams allowing 32 or more points per game. Temple is one of those eight teams. While the Owls have allowed an average of 34 points, it’s been against the two lowest-scoring teams in the AAC, Navy and South Florida, both averaging 19 points.
Now the Owls have to face a Memphis team with quarterback Brady White coming off an all-world performance.
White earned several national awards, including being named the Maxwell Club player of the week, after throwing for 486 yards and six touchdowns and rushing for 30 yards and a score in the win over Central Florida. And that came without star receiver Damonte Coxie, who played the first two games this season then opted out of the rest of the season.
Temple’s defense has struggled first with Navy’s triple-option in a 31-29 loss and then with USF’s more conventional attack, but the offense has shown strong versatility. In last week’s 39-37 win over USF, Temple had six receivers who had three or more catches. Opponents can’t focus on just one player.
“I feel we’re the best group on the field, how we come to work each day, how we prepare, how we go about our business,” Temple’s Randle Jones said about the Owls' receiving corps.
In a league with plenty of pass-catching options, Temple’s group doesn’t have to back down to anybody. Neither does Memphis, and neither do many other AAC teams. Already in the conference, Tulane has scored 66 points in a game, SMU has scored 65 and 50, Cincinnati has scored 55, and Houston, 49. UCF (2-2) has scored at least 49 three times.
Temple has good recent history against the Tigers, including last year’s 30-28 victory. This season, that could be the score at halftime.
Last year’s Temple win over Memphis came with controversy, when a Tigers 13-yard completion on fourth down that would have been a first down to tight end Joey Magnifico was overturned with 1 minute and 50 seconds left. The Tigers have been asked all week about using the game as incentive, and coach Ryan Silverfield has played it down, but no doubt it will serve as some motivation.
Memphis has played a tough schedule, losing to SMU and beating Arkansas State and UCF. In those three games, the Tigers have allowed 1,374 passing yards and nine touchdowns. This game will come down to which secondary is still standing at the end. Memphis is a 13.5-point favorite and that seems a little steep, but the motivation from last year and the hot hand of White give the Tigers the edge in this one.