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Temple Owls vs. No. 19 Cincinnati Bearcats: AAC East title up for grabs

SB Nation logo SB Nation 11/22/2019 Joe Serpico
a man standing in front of a crowd

Date: Saturday, November 23, 2019

Kickoff Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Location: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Watch: ESPN2

All-Time Series: Temple leads, 13-7-1

Last Meeting: 10/20/18. Temple 24 - Cincinnati 17

Betting Lines: Cincinnati -10.5, O/U 45.5

Temple Owls (7-3, 4-2 AAC) Outlook

The Owls were a home underdog last week against Tulane, and it was the third time this season they won in that spot. Temple led throughout the contest, and had some incredible performances in the 29-21 win.

Wide receiver Jadan Blue had a career-high 12 receptions for 131 yards, which is a yard short from his career best. He became the first Owls receiver to post consecutive games with 10-plus receptions and the only player in school history to have three of those marks in one season.

Blue wasn’t the only player on offense with the best game of his career as tight end Kenny Yeboah had five receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first two-touchdown game for Yeboah, and the most receptions he’s had in a single game.

On the other side of the ball, Quincy Roche has vaulted himself into the discussion for AAC Defensive Player of the Year with his play the last two weeks. The defensive end had 12 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and recovery against Tulane. The six tackles for loss were a conference and school record, and with 6.5 sacks the last two weeks, he’s tied for first in the AAC with 9.5 sacks. That’s good for seventh-best in the FBS.

Kicker Will Mobley also tied a career-high with three field goals, and is 11-of-12 on the season. He did miss an extra point due to high winds, but it was his first of the season as he is 30-for-31 on the point after try.

Expect to see two quarterbacks as Anthony Russo is the starter, but Todd Centeio will also see action. Russo has thrown for 2,258 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while Centeio has 309 yards through the air and three touchdown passes. Centeio adds a dimension as a runner, and his insertion to the game has jump started the Owls offense in back-to-back weeks.

A key factor to keep an eye on is the statuses of center Matt Hennessy and safety Benny Walls. Both players are leaders on their respective sides of the ball that are battling injuries.

This is a must-win game for the Owls to have any hopes at getting into the AAC Championship game. Temple needs a win this week, a win against UConn on Senior Day and Cincinnati to lose to Memphis in their regular season finale to send the East division to tiebreaker.

No. 19 Cincinnati Bearcats (9-1, 6-0 AAC) Outlook

Cincinnati is the only undefeated team in the AAC, but they have needed two game-winning field goals in the last three weeks to do so. What has Bearcats worried is those nail biters were against USF and ECU, but the one benefit of the doubt is that both games were on the road.

USF jumped out to a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter, and led for the first three quarters until running back Michael Warren tied the game at 17 on his 2-yard touchdown run. Sam Crosa hit a 37-yarder as time expired to at least a share of the AAC East division title.

Warren put the Bearcats perfect AAC record on his back by leading the team with 134 yards rushing and the touchdown. He also led the team in receiving with two receptions for 30 yards. The junior back has 833 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, with another 148 yards and two touchdowns receiving.

The fact that Warren led the team in those receiving categories is troublesome as quarterback Desmond Ridder has struggled. He finished 9-of-18 for 78 yards passing against USF, and his two worst performances of the season came in these recent scares.

A win would send the Bearcats to their first AAC Championship, and barring a wild weekend in the AAC, they could play Memphis twice. Both games are of importance as the winner of the regular season finale would host the title game, and the AAC Champion is hopeful for a New Year’s Six bowl.

Prediction

These are two teams with matching identities. They rely on their running game and strong defense to win games. The numbers are nearly identical too. Temple is averaging 394 yards on offense, while yielding 384.2 yards on defense. Cincinnati averages 393.4 offensively, and 370.7 in yards allowed.

The difference between these two programs is how they’ve fared in these situations. Temple has struggled on the road all season, with two of three losses away from The Linc, and they too did not come away with big wins at ECU and USF. Cincinnati have taken care of business at home all season long, and unless Ridder is ineffective once again, they should do so once again. The Bearcats win, but the game will be closer than Vegas expects.

Cincinnati 27 - Temple 23

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