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Temple is heavily favored to beat South Florida, but that didn’t work out last week against Navy

The Owls are a 10.5-point favorite against USF, but were favored last week against Navy before losing, 31-29.

Temple's Anthony Russo, right, celebrates a touchdown run against Navy with Michael Niese.
Temple's Anthony Russo, right, celebrates a touchdown run against Navy with Michael Niese.Read moreGail Burton / AP

Jeff Scott is in his first year as a head football coach at South Florida and already skilled at building up the weekly opponent. On Saturday, Scott will lead a rebuilding USF team to Lincoln Financial Field to visit Temple for an American Athletic Conference game at noon.

Temple (0-1, 0-1 AAC) is a 10.5-point favorite over the Bulls (1-3, 0-2).

Scott, who was a Clemson assistant since 2008 and the co-offensive coordinator from 2015 until being hired by USF in December, compared the Owls this week to an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.

“They remind me of Boston College, tough, physical, well coached, really good scheme,” Scott said. “The only thing different is Temple has a better quarterback and skill players than Boston College the last couple of years watching it.”

It must be clear that Scott was talking about last year’s Boston College team, which went 6-7, lost to AAC East Division champion Cincinnati in the Birmingham Bowl, and saw coach Steve Addazio fired. Boston College is 3-1 this year and playing exceptionally well.

Still, Scott had plenty of superlatives for Temple after looking at the tape of Saturday’s 31-29 loss at Navy.

“Watching them on offense, they looked like they were in midseason form,” he said during his Thursday press conference.

The same couldn’t be said about the defense, which allowed 251 rushing yards (4.2 avg.) and four touchdowns against Navy’s triple-option.

Scott also talked about how physical and tough Temple is. Isn’t that what Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said about Temple last week? The way Niumatalolo talked, one wondered if he thought he should be on the same field with the Owls.

While it was Navy’s fourth game and Temple’s first, the oddsmakers didn’t seem to care, having made the Owls a 4-point favorite over the Midshipmen. And the oddsmakers like Temple more than twice as much this week.

USF is coming off a 44-24 loss to East Carolina, which is not exactly considered a contender in the 11-team AAC. USF, which was 10-2 as recently as 2017, but just 4-8 last year, is last in the AAC in scoring offense, averaging 14.5 points. Before Temple fans get too comfortable with that stat, the second-to-last team in scoring offense is Navy, which boosted its average to 17.0 with 31 points against the Owls.

Scott said that redshirt sophomore Jordan McCloud, who has started three games, will be his starter moving forward. McCloud completed 26 of 35 passes for 298 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions, against ECU.

“We played against him last year, and he is certainly a dynamic athlete,” Temple coach Rod Carey said of McCloud. “He throws the ball effectively, and they finally saw them kind of settle in offensively last week with playing him.”

Last year in Temple’s 17-7 win at USF, McCloud completed 25 of 38 passes for 225 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions, but he was sacked nine times.

One reason this game is so important for Temple is that the schedule really gets difficult beginning with next Saturday’s game at defending AAC champion Memphis. While Temple’s players and coaches say all games are important, this one is key if the Owls want to have some momentum for when they are not favored. Temple should be an underdog three of the next four weeks.