This isn't your grandfather's Temple. This isn't your father's Temple. Heck, this isn't even your cousin who's a few years older and just got promoted and why can't you be more like-- Hmm. I seem to have gone off the rails a bit. Point is, this is not the Temple of years past. The one that you could mark a W next to in permanent marker, a team that consistently failed to put more than two wins together. No, last year, Temple finished 10-4 overall, made its third bowl game since 2009 and played defense at a higher level than most teams in the country.
UC got a taste of the improved Owls in 2014 when the Bearcats just barely squeaked out a 14-6 victory on the heels of six-straight games of at least 34 points. Last season, UC wasn't so lucky, as it fell 34-26 to the Owls at home. In 2016, the Bearcats will visit Temple just a few days before Halloween with the hopes of putting on a winning football team costume.
North and south. Black and white. Pokemon Blue and Pokemon Red. You can add Cincinnati and Temple to the list of classic opposites. The Bearcats fire on all cylinders offensively and have been at their best when the defense can keep up to a degree. Temple, on the other hand, flashes offensive firepower on occasion, but generally benefits from devastating defensive acumen.
The difference between these two squads could not have been more apparent than it was last season. UC threw for 427 yards while Temple managed only 81. However, for all of its advantages (first downs 34-13, total yards 557-296), UC came up short because it just couldn't hold onto the ball. Gunner Kiel was intercepted four times and Temple scored 10 points off of turnovers in the eight-point victory. Kiel still finished with 427 yards and two touchdowns while completing 30-of-52 passes, but those four miscues were all that ended up mattering. In the year before, Kiel managed to avoid the opposing secondary, but he only had 174 yards and a touchdown on 19 completions.
As for the running game, Tion Green (59 yards) and Hosey Williams (45 yards) got a decent amount of work, combining for 22 carries, and the Bearcats ran for 130 yards, but, as in most games, the running game was more of a distraction than a main course.
In 2016, UC will be facing a bit of a new defensive unit from Temple as leaders Tyler Matakevich, Tavon Young,and Matt Ioannidis are gone, but with Sharif Finch, Haason Reddick, Nate Smith and Jarred Alwan all back in the fold, there will still be enough pressure and star power to keep the Owls on the dominant side.
To their credit, the Bearcats did a solid job on defense against Temple in 2016, even if they let up 34 points. Well, that's if you just look at the surface. Temple finished with 296 yards of total offense and ran 56 plays (compared to 83 from UC). However, by giving Temple the ball back constantly, and failing to get hands on Jahad Thomas before he broke into the secondary time and time again, UC's defense was unable to make up for the offense's miscues. Thomas went off for 193 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries and quarterback P.J. Walker threw for two scores on top of that.
Even though Thomas ran all over the Bearcats, last season's campaign marked the second straight season in which UC has allowed less than 300 yards to Temple and the third time since 2012 when the two teams helped usher in the American Athletic Conference. Even in this era of renewed success, Temple has failed to be a huge threat offensively, favoring a ground-and-pound approach to the bitter end. That ending may be more sweet than bitter in 2016 as both Thomas and Walker are still on the roster.
Losing Matakevich is a big hit for Temple, which will go into 2016 with a lot more expected than its used to. Playing on the road won't help UC's chances but this one projects to be another competitive contest. Kiel will rack up the yards and if he can keep the ball in his receivers' hands (which may be tough as the Bearcats are trotting out an entirely new receiving corps), Temple's lack of offensive explosiveness could sink the Owls.