Temple coach Matt Rhule always shows his team the strength of an opponent, even if sometimes it takes some creativity.

When the Owls host Southern Methodist in Saturday's noon American Athletic Conference game for both 2-2 teams, Rhule will point to the way the Mustangs played against two nationally ranked Big 12 teams, No. 13 Baylor and No. 21 TCU.

Actually, Rhule likely has shown his team the first half of both games. SMU lost at Baylor, 40-13 in its second game of the season. Last week, the Mustangs lost, 33-3 against visiting TCU.

SMU was tied 6-6 at halftime against Baylor and trailed 6-3 at intermission against TCU.

"You could tell this is a really good football team the way they had Baylor and TCU at halftime," Rhule said.

The Temple coach probably won't show his team the weekly AAC Power ratings, compiled by beat writers. SMU is the 12th and final team in this week's rankings, while Temple is tied for sixth with East Carolina.

A point of emphasis this week for Temple will be to get more heat on redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Hicks. The Owls have just five sacks, which is ninth in the AAC. Their lone sack in last week's 48-20 win against Charlotte was by tight end Romond Deloatch, who saw his first action at defensive end last week.

Deloatch is also a threat on offense, but the biggest obstacle will be defending Courtland Sutton, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound SMU sophomore.

Last season he had 49 receptions for 862 yards and nine touchdowns.

This season Sutton has been even more dangerous with 18 receptions for 449 yards and four touchdowns. He leads the nation in yards per catch (24.9) among receivers with at least 15 receptions.

"He is one of the best receivers in the country," Rhule said of Sutton.

With quarterback Matt Davis having suffered a season-ending knee injury, Hicks (6-1, 216) has taken over and experienced growing pains. Hicks has thrown two touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

SMU has improved on defense after allowing 45.7 points per game last year. This season the Mustangs are allowing 27 points and lead the nation with 10 interceptions. Cornerback Jordan Wyatt and Horace Richardson have three interceptions each.

"They are fast and take the ball away and make plays," Temple quarterback Phillip Walker said about SMU's defense.

Walker has had two strong games, in a 34-27 loss at Penn State and last week's 48-20 win over visiting Charlotte. He has thrown for 554 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in those games.

"I think the offense is starting to get some rhythm," said Rhule, whose team won at SMU, 60-40, last season in a game that was close until the Owls scored twice in the last two minutes.

SMU, under second-year coach Chad Morris, the former offensive coordinator at Clemson, was supposed to have a high scoring offense, but the Mustangs are averaging just 19.8 points per game.

"Our inability to score is what is hindering us," Morris said earlier this week on a conference call. "Our defense is playing well."

@sjnard