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Temple a 3 1/2-point favorite against No. 20 Cincinnati

No. 20 Cincinnati is 6-0 but has yet to beat a team that currently has a winning record.

Temple quarterback Anthony Russo throws the football against East Carolina on Saturday, October 6, 2018. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Temple quarterback Anthony Russo throws the football against East Carolina on Saturday, October 6, 2018. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYong Kim

The Cincinnati Bearcats will have bulletin board material when they visit Temple on Saturday.

The Bearcats (6-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) are ranked 20th in the nation and have the nation's No. 3 scoring defense (allowing 13.7 ppg.) … and they're listed as a 3 1/2-point underdog for the noon matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.

It's understandable that Temple (4-3, 3-0) gets some points for the home advantage, but an undefeated, ranked team should be favored. In this case, though, Cincinnati's schedule might be a factor. The Bearcats haven't beaten a team with a current winning record. The cumulative record of their six opponents is 13-25. Their two AAC wins are over Tulane and UConn, which are a combined 3-9.

That doesn't mean Cincinnati isn't formidable. Desmond Ridder, a 6-foot-4, 212-pound redshirt freshman quarterback, should scare the Owls, as should the Bearcats' stingy defense.

Still, Temple has played a tougher schedule, although the Owls' three AAC wins are over Tulsa, ECU and Navy, which are a combined 5-13. So the winner of this game will earn its first victory over an AAC team that has a winning record.

The record of all Owls opponents, however, is 23-22, giving Temple the overall edge in the schedule department.

"We are going to Temple, and they are probably as good a team as we have played all year and are playing as well as anybody we have seen," Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said earlier this week during the AAC media call.

Playing a weaker schedule has given this young Bearcats team confidence. According to the Cincinnati sports information staff, 72 percent of the Bearcats are underclassmen and 35 are true freshmen.

Temple, meanwhile, isn't looking at its schedule or Cincinnati's schedule. The Owls players and coach Geoff Collins have stated that their only goal is to go 1-0 this week — the standard response, regardless of whom they are playing.

The Owls say they get no added motivation from playing a ranked team, or one that is among eight FBS programs still unbeaten. Even the fact that it is homecoming isn't a factor, according to players.

"We don't focus on the outside noise," offensive tackle Jaelin Robinson said. "Every opponent is a worthy opponent, regardless of their record."

Temple has beaten a ranked team in three of the last four seasons, most recently when it defeated No. 19 Navy, 34-10, in the 2016 AAC championship game.

"It is just one game at a time," said defensive end Zack Mesday, a walk-on who has been productive with 15 tackles, including two for loss, in a reserve role. "Obviously, we have momentum and more confidence than in the beginning of the season."