Playing a team on a three-game losing streak has its upside and downside: You're expected to win, but things could always go horribly wrong.
Temple hopes to avoid that worst-case scenario on Saturday in a Mid-American Conference East Division game at Bowling Green.
The Owls (5-2, 3-1 Mid-American) are facing a Falcons squad (3-4, 1-2) whose last victory was Sept. 24 against Miami of Ohio. Since then, Bowling Green has lost to West Virginia, Western Michigan, and Toledo - all of whom, like Temple this week, were heavy favorites in those games. The Owls, are favored Saturday by 131/2 points.
But the Owls, the clear front-runners in the race for the MAC East title and a berth in the league title game, are acting like the Falcons are on a three-game winning streak.
"They are buying what we are selling. Bottom line," Temple coach Steve Addazio said of his players. "They are reacting."
The Owls coaching staff has been preaching that there are fragile moments for any program throughout the season, and that overlooking any opponent could be dangerous.
"There are points in the season that are pretty critical points that sometimes can go one way or go the other," Addazio said.
Temple will continue to control its division-title destiny with a victory.
Bowling Green, on the other hand, has to win to have any hopes of capturing the MAC East.
"Every team at some point of the year hits a point that if you want to reach your goals, there's no more option for error," Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson told the Toledo Blade. "We've hit that point this week.
"If we don't play well this week and don't find a way to defend our home field, it's hard to figure out a scenario that we'll be in Detroit" for the MAC championship game on Dec. 2.
Clawson, a former offensive coordinator at Villanova, realizes the Falcons must stop the Owls running game, and that mostly means stopping Bernard Pierce. That's a tall order for a Bowling Green defense that gave up 351 and 268 rushing yards in their past two games, respectively.
Temple comes in with the conference's top-ranked rushing offense (257 yards per game), and Pierce (844 yards, 17 touchdowns) leads the nation in scoring with 102 points. Pierce's backup, Matt Brown, is also a threat: He has rushed for 443 yards and two touchdowns.
Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz, a California native, has completed 127 of 225 passes for 1,697 yards (242.4 yards per game) and 17 touchdowns. But the sophomore has also thrown eight interceptions.
Temple at Bowling Green
When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m., Doyt Perry Stadium, Bowling Green, Ohio
TV/Radio: ESPN3.com; WPHT-AM (1210)
Records: Temple, 5-2 overall, 3-1 Mid-American Conference; Bowling Green, 3-4, 1-2.
Coaches: Temple, Steve Addazio (first season, 5-2); Bowling Green, Dave Clawson (third season, 12-20).
Series: The Falcons lead, 7-4. Temple won last season's meeting, 28-27.
Betting line: Temple by 131/2.
THINGS TO WATCH
Will Owls tailbacks Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown both rush for more than 100 yards for a third consecutive game? Two weeks ago, Pierce had 121 yards against Ball State, while Brown finished with 114. Last week against Buffalo, Pierce had 152 yards and Brown added 120.
Who will win the special teams battle? Bowling Green has the MAC's best punter in Brian Schmiedebusch. Temple is second in the conference in punt returns.
Will Temple be able to contain wideout Kamar Jorden? The Penn Wood product caught 12 passes for 143 yards last season against the Owls.
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW
Temple director of football operations Ed Foley was the offensive coordinator at Fordham from 1999 to 2003, when Clawson was the Rams head coach.
Pierce's 14 career 100-yard rushing games rank seventh among active college players. Boston College's Montel Harris leads the nation with 22.
There are three local products on Bowling Green's team. In addition to Jorden, the others are freshman quarterback Malik Stokes and his brother Je'Ron Stokes, a junior wideout. Je'Ron Stokes transfered from Michigan and is sitting out this season.
- Keith Pompey