HOUSTON - The return of Temple center and team leader Kyle Friend could be one of the keys when the Owls (10-2) visit Houston (11-1) in Saturday's American Athletic Conference inaugural championship game.
Friend earned first-team all-AAC honors despite missing the last four games with a knee injury suffered during the Owls 24-20 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 31.
"I don't know what he takes or does or how much he sleeps, but he looks better now than before," Temple coach Matt Rhule said during Friday's news conference at TDECU Stadium. "I think it is a matter of confidence with a knee, you are healthy but a little bit nervous but it keeps twinging on you."
Rhule said that Friend told him after backup center Brendan McGowan was sidelined toward the end of Saturday's 27-3 win over visiting Connecticut that he would be ready this week.
"He will play the whole game and will play really well," Rhule said of Friend.
Houston coach Tom Herman, a subject to major coaching speculation, agreed to a contract amendment that will extend his original contract through the 2020 season.
According to the school, this will raise Herman's annual compensation to $2.8 million.
Herman has guided the Cougars to an 11-1 record in his first season after serving as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State.
"To get it done this morning was a big relief, to at least now spend the next 24 hours not having to answer questions," Herman said.
It will be interesting if this has any impact on any possible raise for Rhule. In June, Rhule signed an extension through the 2021 season. He is making approximately $1.5 million this year, which includes bonuses according to a source.
Rhule, is friendly with Herman and was naturally happy for the Cougars coach.
"Next time I see him, he will be buying dinner," Rhule quipped.
Farrow still ailing
Houston leading rusher Kenneth Farrow's status remains day-to-day with a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss last week's 52-31 win over Navy that clinched the West Division title.
"He is still hobbled a little bit and practiced and did some light drills," Herman said of Farrow, who has rushed for 949 yards and 12 touchdowns.
If Farrow is unable to go, Brandon Wilson, who rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns against Navy after moving from cornerback, would get the start. Herman said Wilson could end up playing on both sides of the ball.