When/Where: Saturday November 14th at 7 p.m. ET- Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)
Salute to Service Game: Bulls will wear special stars and stripes helmet logos and the patches of all five branches of military service on their uniforms for the game.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: USF-IMG Network (820 AM)/www.GoUSFBulls.com
All-time series: Temple leads 1-0.
Last Meeting: 2012. Temple won 37-28 in Philadelphia.
Notable USF Stats:
-USF enters Saturday 2nd in AAC East behind Temple. Bulls are just one victory away from clinching bowl eligibility for first time since Skip Holtz’s first season in 2010.
-USF looking for first victory over ranked opponent since 2011 season opener at Notre Dame.
-Marlon Mack one 100+ yard rushing performance away from tying single season record in program history. Needs 124 yards to crack 2,000 yards in career.
-Auggie Sanchez ranks 4th in AAC in tackles (9.0 per game). On pace for first 100+ tackle season for USF since 2009. He talked about what has sparked his team-leading play this year: “I picked up my game all offseason in training and what we did in the weight room. It’s definitely a product of the system in place. I have really good guys around me and a good defensive line that allows me to make plays. Without them, I wouldn’t have 81 tackles and be playing as well as I’ve been playing.”
-Rodney Adams has 6 receiving TDs. One shy of tying school single season record.
-Bulls still 11th in the nation in TFL per game (8.0).
Notable Temple Stats:
-Can clinch AAC East with victory.
-Owls 25th in the nation in totals defense.
-Temple defense allowing only 18.4 ppg (#16), 110.9 rushing ypg (#12).
-Through nine games, Matt Rhule has already matched his combined win totals from first two seasons as Temple head coach.
-RB Jahad Thomas leads AAC in rushing with 970 yards and 14 TDs.
-Senior LB Tyler Matakevich on his way to all-AAC honors. 87 total tackles (10 TFL), 5 INTs, and 4 sacks through nine games.
-Senior DT Nate D. Smith has 23 tackles (7 TFL), 6.5 sacks.
It’s hard to think back to the last time a home football game in November had so much riding on the line for the Bulls. For South Florida students, alumni, and fans, it has been several years since a home game of incredible magnitude has presented itself this late in the season. USF at their peak during the days of Jim Leavitt garnered a reputation for rising to the occasion and knocking off top opponents. That same opportunity will appear Saturday, this time with divisional and bowl implications, when AAC East leading Temple visits Raymond James Stadium.
Late into his third season at the helm, Willie Taggart understands the importance of upsetting a heavily favored conference foe. “To beat a ranked opponent at home would be big time and program changing. It would be another sign that our guys are heading right where we want them to be. We have to take advantage of being at home and getting our fan base in there. And I don’t just want them in there, I want them to be very, very loud.”
The energy and the buzz around the program has spread not only throughout campus, but the entire Tampa community as well. Winners of four out of their last five contests, including a late touchdown to secure a victory over East Carolina last week, it is understood that this team is on the verge of accomplishing something special. “People are seeing it now, we’ve come a long way and we’re rebuilding this thing,” the aforementioned Sanchez also said this week. “It’s something special. It’s definitely an honor for me to be a part of it.”
The difficult task now is finding a way to upend a Temple opponent that is a few breaks and scores away from being undefeated and a fringe College Football Playoff contender.
Even a bigger surprise than USF this season has been the emergence of Matt Rhule’s Temple Owls as not just an above .500 team, but bona-fide AAC championship contenders with a good chance at making a New Year’s Six bowl should they run the table.
The strength of Temple comes defensively, where the Owls currently sit 25th nationally and only allow 18.4 ppg. Particularly, their defensive front seven gives opposing rushing attacks fits as seniors Tyler Matakevich and Nate D. Smith can muscle their way and wreak havoc in backfields in similar fashions to Jamie Byrd and Eric Lee for USF.
“I’m expecting a very good football team coming here, very physical and playing at its best right now,” Taggart said when describing the Owls “Defensively by far, it’s going to be the best defense we’ve faced probably since Florida State. It’s going to be a challenge for our football team, but we’re excited about it.”
Offensively, Temple poses the treat in the form of dynamic QB P.J. Walker and running back Jahad Thomas. Tomas leads the conference in rushing and is on the verge of cracking 1,000 yards on the season while Walker boasts 1,770 passing yards and 14 touchdowns on the year.
“P.J. Walker is a great quarterback,” Sanchez mentioned when describing his opposition. “He can flat out sling the ball and has an NFL type arm. He along with the rest of the Temple offense is really talented.”
Keys to a USF victory:
USF should study last week’s Temple-SMU game as a way to score on the Owl defense. Even though they came away with the win, Temple allowed a season high forty points to a 1-8 Mustangs squad in a contest where Matt Rhule said that they didn’t play their best football. Utilization of Rodney Adams to expose a middling Owls secondary will be key.