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Temple and Toledo alike in many ways

BOCA RATON, Fla. - When Temple meets Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday, it will be a matchup of mirror image teams who are as close as their records indicate.

BOCA RATON, Fla. - When Temple meets Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday, it will be a matchup of mirror image teams who are as close as their records indicate.

That's why it's not surprising that the line for the game has Temple just a 1 1/2-point favorite.

These are teams that have offenses predicated on running the ball, stingy defenses and quarterbacks with big-play ability when needed.

There is another thing the teams have in common - both lost their previous game and neither wants to head into the offseason with a two-game losing streak.

Temple (10-3) is coming off a 24-13 loss at Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship on Dec. 5. Toledo lost to visiting Western Michigan, 35-30, on Nov. 27. A win would have earned the Rockets a berth in the Mid-American Conference title game. Instead, they had to settle for earning a share of the Western Division title with three other teams.

The biggest similarity comes on defense. Temple is 16th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 19.2 points per game, while Toledo is 24th, allowing 21.1 points.

Toledo (9-2) has the edge in offense, but not a significant one. The Rockers average 35.3 points while Temple averages 30.8.

The two teams have similar styles, relying strongly on the run. In this day where spread offenses are in vogue, these two teams thrive on blocking, running and tackling, old fashioned, but effective football.

"We both play good defense and we both try to run the football," Temple coach Matt Rhule said.

Toledo coach Jason Candle says geography plays a key role in both teams' offensive philosophies.

"Certainly playing football in the north has to be a part of why both teams do what we do," Candle said. "You have to run the ball and stop the run."

Toledo has a much deeper backfield. The Rockets' top three ground gainers - Kareem Hunt, Terry Swanson and Damion Jones-Moore - have rushed for 2,208 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Temple's ground game has thrived mainly on the effort of junior Jahad Thomas, who has rushed for 1,257 yards (4.7 avg.) and 17 touchdowns.

The quarterbacks are also strikingly similar, both physically and statistically speaking. Toledo's Phillip Ely, who began his career at Alabama, is 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds. He is listed as a senior, but said earlier this week he was petitioning the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility.

Temple junior P.J. Walker is 6-1, 200.

Ely has completed 54.9 percent of his passes for 2,680 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Walker, in two more games, has completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 2,736 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Each team is led by defensive playmakers, Temple by consensus All-American linebacker Tyler Matakevich (126 tackles) and Toledo by first-team all-MAC cornerback Cheatham Norrils (13 pass breakups, three interceptions).

These are two veteran teams. Temple had seven players make the first-team all-AAC team, six seniors and one junior. The Rockets had four first-team all-MAC choices, two seniors and two juniors.

"They are great and have a lot of older guys, juniors and seniors, and they have played great football," Walker said of Toledo.

One difference is that Temple has enjoyed a breakout season, having earned its first bowl appearance since beating Wyoming, 37-15, in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl.

Toledo, meanwhile, is making its fifth bowl appearance in the last six years.

"They know how to win," Rhule said of the Rockets. "We learned how to win and are trying to get to the point consistently that they have had the last half a decade."

Another step could be taken on Tuesday, when the Owls will line up against an opponent that will look incredibly familiar.