The oddsmakers must think this is the East Carolina team of the last two years, but the Pirates are vastly improved. Temple has been installed a 12-point favorite, and while the Owls should win Saturday's game at home, winning by 12 points may be too much to ask.

In the previous two years, the Owls beat ECU by a combined 71-20 score. This is an ECU team that earlier beat North Carolina, 41-19. Granted UNC isn't a good team, but ECU was 6-18 the last two years. So any win is big. Plus, ECU lost only to possibly the second-best team in the American Athletic Conference, South Florida, 20-13.

Temple is coming off a 45-35 loss at Boston College in a game in which the Eagles scored 22 points off turnovers. The Owls were also hurt by penalties (11 for 95 yards). ECU beat Old Dominion, 37-35, last week. Before shrugging at that result, keep in mind that ODU beat Virginia Tech this year. ECU is especially improved on defense, where the Pirates are second in the nation in tackles for loss per game, averaging 10.3.

Temple must account for defensive end Nate Harvey, who has 11 tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks. The Owls should ride the hot hand, which happens to be running back Ryquell Armstead, who has rushed for 100 yards in four consecutive games. ECU has the No. 1 rushing defense, so that should be a key matchup.

Temple (2-3, 1-0 AAC) desperately needs this game if the Owls have thoughts of earning a bowl bid. Surprisingly, the same could be said about ECU (2-2, 0-1).

Prediction: Temple 28, East Carolina 24