Temple's Bernard Pierce has to be salivating.
In what might be his last collegiate game, the junior tailback could have a record-setting performance against Wyoming's porous run defense in the New Mexico Bowl.
Pierce, who sources have confirmed submitted paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board, will face a Cowboys team ranked 115th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision squads in rushing defense.
Wyoming (8-4) is giving up 230.1 rushing yards per game. And the Cowboys have yielded more than 300 yards against Nebraska (333 yards), Utah State (303), Texas Christian (390), and Air Force (312).
Giving up a chunk of yards to Temple is a major concern for Wyoming.
"They've got a big, physical offensive line, and they run the ball extremely well," Cowboys coach Dave Christensen told the Casper (Wyo.) Star Tribune of facing the Owls on Dec. 17 in Albuquerque, N.M.
Temple (8-4) averages 256.7 rushing yards, the seventh-best mark in the FBS. Pierce ranks sixth the subdivision with an average of 125.5 rushing yards. The 6-foot, 220-pounder also has a single-season school record 25 rushing touchdowns.
If this is indeed his last game, one can only assume that Pierce expects to go out with a career-best performance.
Sources backed up a published report that he submitted paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board to seek input on where he could get chosen in April's draft. This is a standard procedure for draft-eligible juniors. More than 100 players typically request these evaluations each year from the panel of NFL scouts.
However, a Temple spokesperson disputed last week's initial report that Pierce did indeed file the paperwork. The Owls also declined to grant media requests to speak to Pierce at Sunday's bowl selection party. And the spokesperson said Pierce would not answer NFL draft-related questions during this week's media availability.
"I don't know why they are trying to keep it a secret," a source said. "He and his mother even met with [Temple coach Steve] Addazio to talk about the paperwork.
"Perhaps, they aren't saying anything so it won't be a bowl-game distraction."
But Pierce's desire to play in the NFL isn't a secret. According to sources, he mentioned months ago that this would probably be his last season as an Owl.
The deadline to apply for an evaluation is Dec. 17. Draft-eligible players have until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft. The deadline to withdraw is Jan. 18.
Players who have applied for the draft advisory board will receive their evaluations before the Jan. 15 deadline. The report will include where the scouts foresee the players going in the draft.
When healthy, Pierce is one of the nation's premiere running backs. The three-year starter ranks second on Temple's all-time rushing list with 3,470 yards. His 51 rushing touchdowns, 52 total touchdowns, and 312 points scored are career records at Temple.
Pierce rushed for 1,381 yards this season despite missing one game with a concussion, playing two others with a hamstring injury, and being taken out in the third quarter of a number of games because Temple had huge leads.
While explosive, Pierce has been hampered throughout his career with injuries.