The American Athletic Conference hasn't had a football championship game without Temple, but for that to happen for a third consecutive year, the Owls would have to confound the experts.

With six starters returning on offense and four on defense from a 10-4 team that beat Navy, 34-10, in the AAC title game, Temple should be competitive.

The Owls also have several other returning non-starters who have received ample playing time. Players have bought into the enthusiastic ways of new head coach Geoff Collins.

"He brings a lot of juice and energy and he fits Temple, he is Temple tough," senior defensive end Jacob Martin said. "He is a tough dude, a tough-nosed guy."

Collins and the players couldn't have been happier when the AAC preseason poll came out and Temple was picked to finish third in the East Division.

"I love it," Collins said, not even trying to hide a smile.

Collins didn't attempt to reinvent the wheel. Practices are run in a way similar to that of his predecessor Matt Rhule, with a high level of enthusiasm, a fair share of hitting, and players receiving plenty of reps in the fast-paced workouts.

This season's level of success will likely be determined by what is done at the quarterback position.

Replacing four-year starter Phillip Walker is the biggest decision that Collins and his new offensive coordinator, Dave Patenaude, have to make.

Collins hinted last week that he might use multiple quarterbacks in the opener Saturday at Notre Dame and he isn't expected to announce a starter.

The Owls went 2-10 in Walker's first year as a starter, although he didn't hit the starting lineup until the sixth game. Then they were 6-6, followed by consecutive 10-4 seasons, tying a single-season school record for wins.

[Temple football notes: Keys to the Owls season]

A return to the 2-10 days seems unlikely because the supporting cast is so strong. Walker's successor doesn't have to be spectacular, but he must be relatively mistake-free.

The four quarterback candidates are redshirt junior Frank Nutile, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt freshman Anthony Russo, and freshman Todd Centeio, who enrolled in January. All four have experienced their ups and downs in the competition.

Temple enters the season with 11 career passing attempts among its QBs, six by Marchi and five by Nutile. They appear the front-runners for the job.

Because of the inexperience, Patenaude will likely mix his fast-paced spread offense with some pro sets, having the quarterback take the snap from under center. The Owls will likely play their share of smash-mouth football to control the clock.

The running game might have to carry the team in the early going, and the Owls seem equipped to do that. That's why junior Ryquell Armstead of Millville becomes one of the central figures.

Armstead (5-11, 205), the backup last season to Jahad Thomas, a free-agent signee by the Dallas Cowboys, has prepared diligently for a heavier load this season.

"I got stronger, faster, and lost 10 pounds," said Armstead, who scored a team-high 14 rushing touchdowns. "We are a spread team and there is more running and we have been taking a lot more reps in practice."

Junior Jager Gardner, whose first two seasons were marred by injuries, and redshirt junior David Hood are capable ballcarriers. Hood is more of a home-run threat

Counting the scrambles from Walker, Temple averaged 40 carries a game, a figure the Owls could surpass, at least in the early going.

While the running game might need to carry the offense early, the receiving corps, led by redshirt senior Keith Kirkwood, senior Adonis Jennings, and redshirt junior Ventell Bryant, is potent. The trio combined for 123 receptions for 2,017 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Bryant, who had 54 receptions for 895 yards and four touchdowns, is recovering from a preseason hamstring injury, but he said he would be ready for the opener.

The offensive line must replace two starters — left tackle Dion Dawkins, a second-round draft choice of the Buffalo Bills, and center Brendan McGowan.

Redshirt freshman center Matt Hennessy is considered a rising star. Leon Johnson, who started 14 games at right tackle, should move into Dawkins' spot on the left side. Johnson no doubt is the leader of the offensive line, which also welcomes back starting guards Jovahn Fair and  Adrian Sullivan.

Last season Temple was 11th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 18.4 points per game, and the Owls should be formidable again. Replacing the 32.5 tackles for losses by defensive ends Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike will be a key.

As many as eight defensive linemen could be used and the Owls are especially strong at tackle with Freddie Booth-Lloyd, Dan Archibong, and Michael Dogbe.

The linebackers are young, led by sophomore Shaun Bradley. It's a much more athletic group, but last season's all-senior starting trio played with great intelligence and fury. Can the newcomers match that?

The secondary, headed by fourth-year starter Sean Chandler, should be among the best in the nation. Like the running game, the defense may have to carry things early, until Temple gets used to its new quarterback(s).

Kickers Austin Jones and Aaron Boumerhi both have first-string talent, but when Jones suffered a season-ending ACL injury last year, Boumerhi took the job and flourished. Other than quarterbacks, this has been the closest position competition in camp.

While Temple has questions, the Owls also have a winning pedigree from the last two years and that can't be discounted. Yet the season, unfairly as it seems, will ride on the level of consistency at the quarterback position.