The Army Black Knights will meet the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field this Friday to open the season. It is the first game of the season for both teams and those 0-0 records mean that anything is possible at this point. This is also the first head to head of the new season so without further ado these are the matchups that matter for Army vs. Temple.
ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
TEMPLE PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Unless something pretty remarkable has happened behind the scenes you know what you are going to get from Army in the passing game early in the season. The Black Knights are as committed to the triple-option as ever and the passing game is used more as a change of pace than anything else. The Black Knights may put the ball in the air more if, as expected, quarterback Christ Carter shares some of the snaps with starter Ahmad Bradshaw. Army passed for just 94 yards per game in 2015, and a Temple secondary that ranked at No. 43 in the nation will have the edge in this
ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
TEMPLE RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Army finished 2015 with the No. 12 rushing offense in the nation at just over 244 yards per game on the ground. This number is good, but the Black Knights know it has to be better if the team is going to win more games this season. The loss of Aaron Kemper in the offseason hurts, but Army is quietly confident that the stable of fullbacks and slotbacks in place can more than replace his production.
Temple was good against the run last season, giving up just 128 yards per game on the ground. That though was a unit with linebacker Tyler Matakevich making play after play, he finished the season with 138 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and five interceptions, but he is now playing on Sundays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The other item worth note is that the Owls struggled against teams with mobile quarterbacks, perhaps suggesting that Bradshaw can do damage with his legs as the game goes on.
TEMPLE PASSING OFFENSE
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Army passing defense was actually pretty good last year, especially for a team that finished 2-10. The Black Knights were No. 47 in the nation, giving up just over 210 yards per game through the air. What killed Army was their inability to stop teams when the game was close late more than their inability to stop passing games from taking over.
Temple has plenty of questions to answer when it comes to moving the ball through the air. This group, led by quarterback Phillip Walker and his 19 TDs to 8 interceptions last year, has the ability to be a standout unit, but it needs to be seen to be clicking before that grade is given. The Owls have questions on the offensive line and Walker must find a replacement for go to receiver Robby Anderson who is currently plying his trade with the New York Jets.
CONNECTICUT RUSHING OFFENSE
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Army has very quietly put together one of the best run-stopping linebacker groups in the country entering the 2016 season. The MLB pair of Jeremy Timpf (92 tackles in 2015) and Andrew King (92 tackles and 16.5 TFL) are dynamic playmakers that can get around the field as sideline to sideline players. There are a couple of question marks when it comes to talent and depth on the defensive line, but if Army can keep offensive linemen away from Timpf and King either, or both, could have monster seasons.
King and Timpf will be tested though by Temple running back Jahad Thomas. Thomas had 19 total touchdowns last season and he is a returning First-Team All-AAC player. The Owls were No. 96 in the nation in rushing last year with 150 yards per game, but new offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas is looking for more out of his running back rotation as Temple looks for a more tempo based scheme this fall.
REMARKS: The special teams battle favors Temple as the Owls have a couple of ace returners on their roster. Temple finished at No. 26 in the country in punt return success rate thanks to Sean Chandler and at No. 39 in the country in kick return success rate mainly thanks to Jager Gardner. Army's numbers in those categories were No. 77 in punt returns and No. 82 in kickoff return success rate by comparison. Add in the unknowns of Army breaking in a new kicker and a new punter and you have to believe that special teams is a concern for the coaching staff heading into the game on Friday night.
REMARKS: The worry here is that Jeff Monken simply wasn't able to coach an extra victory or two out of the Black Knights last year when the team was in so many close games. The old adage is that close games are decided as much by coaching choices and strategy as luck, and Army lost five games by five points or fewer in 2015. The Black Knights win total slipped from four in Monken's first year to two last year. He needs a big season.
Temple head coach Matt Rhule, by comparison, has improved the Owls win/loss record all three seasons he has been with the team. After being handed an empty closet in 2013 he stumbled to a 2-10 season, before evening things out with a 6-6 effort in 2014. Last year the Owls improved to ten wins and looked set for a huge season before losing their last two contests to finish 10-4. Either way, Rhule has proven himself to be an excellent head coach.
REMARKS: Temple leads the all-time series 7-4 and the Owls also won the last meeting between the two schools (33-14) in 2013 giving Matt Rhule his first win as the Temple head coach. There is still something odd about Temple playing in a 70,000 seat NFL stadium, but the Owls make it work. It feels like Temple is primed for a huge year now Rhule has all his players in place after three years of recruiting, while Army is still trying to get back on track after the disaster of 2015.
PREDICTION: Temple 31, Army 21. Army has the ability to keep this close, especially if the running game gets going early, but Temple just has too much firepower for the Black Knights to keep up down the stretch.