The CIncinnati Bearcats face one of their stiffest challenges this Saturday evening. The Temple Owls, led by first-year head coach Rod Carey, come to town for a top-notch conference contest.
Temple enters the game with a 7-3 mark. The blemishes on their record are quite startling: blowout losses to SMU and UCF as well as an early-season defeat at the hands of Buffalo.
The wins on Temple’s resume are also impressive: an early win over Big Ten opponent Maryland, a victory over Tulane, and an upset win against the Memphis Tigers.
Temple is led at quarterback by veteran signal caller Anthony Russo, the dean of AAC passers in the 2019 season. Though only a junior, Russo has been leading the Owls for three seasons and is a steady, pro style performer. This guy has decade-long NFL backup quarterback written all over him. Russo has a strong arm, which can get him into trouble as he tries to force balls into tight spaces. He has also won a number of big games for the Owls and is the embodiment of clutch.
Russo’s supporting cast includes a pair of productive running backs. Freshman Re’Mahn Davis has shown himself to be a durable contributor in the backfield. At 5’9, 210 pounds, Davis is just the kind of squat running back can batter a defensive front between the tackles. Senior Jager Gardner is a versatile backfield presence, capable as a receiver and also of breaking a big play on the perimeter. Gardner is also an excellent blocking back.
At wide receiver, the Owls are led by Jadan Blue, a sophomore homerun hitter reminiscent of Oakland Raiders legend Cliff Branch. Blue is a constant deep threat who requires continuous surveillance. The rest of the Owls receiving corps is also strong: Kenny Yeboah and Branden Mack are a pair of productive, possession receivers.
Temple has one of the better offensive lines in the AAC and has done a good job of keeping its skill position players upright this season.
On defense is where Temple runs into trouble. I anticipate this being a high-scoring game, which favors Cincinnati, as Temple’s defense has come up small in the instances when opposing offenses have proven productive against them. Temple’s secondary has proven particularly inconsistent this season, looking downright uncompetitive in losses to SMU and UCF.
The Owls’ top defender is certainly junior defensive end Quincy Roche, who has proven to be a disruptive force in both the running and the passing game. Last week, the 6’3, 235 pound end was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Week, for tallying 12 stops against Tulane and thoroughly upending the Green Wave’s running game.
Cincinnati will have to account for Roche all evening if they hope to move the ball on the ground on Saturday night.