Toledo Rockets (9-2 SU, 8-2-1 ATS) vs. Temple Owls (10-3 SU, 9-4 ATS)
Marmot Boca Raton Bowl
Date/Time: Tuesday, December 22, 2015, 7:00 pm EST
Where: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla.
TV: ESPN, DirecTV 206
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TOL +1.5/TEM -1.5
Over/Under Total: 51
In one of the more interesting “undercard” bowl matchups of 2015, the nine-win Toledo Rockets out of the Mid-American Conference will battle against a 10-win Temple Owls team out of the American Athletic Conference for the right to be the second-ever winner of the Boca Raton Bowl played Tuesday night in FAU Stadium on ESPN.
For all of you trivia buffs out there, the C-USAs Marshall Thundering Herd won last year’s inaugural Boca Raton Bowl, defeating the MACs Northern Illinois, 52-23. The bowl aims to have a conference champion of some kind in the game, hence the rotating conferences with C-USA, MAC and now the AAC all invited to the party that is Boca Raton.
Of course, although these two teams appear to be quite similar, in actuality the two programs are going in different directions. No fault of their own.
Toledo started the year with a huge upset of the SECs Arkansas in the opener, but with multiple chances to control their own destiny down the stretch the Rockets lost … twice … and cost themselves the MAC West title in the process. All the Rockets had to do was beat Western Michigan in the finale and a shot at the MAC title was their’s, but a, 35-30, loss on the Friday following Thanksgiving flipped their season and the Toledo program upside down.
If falling one game short of the title wasn’t painful enough, the Rockets received another body blow the following week when head coach Matt Campbell agreed to become the new coach at Iowa State. The Rockets moved quickly and have already hired offensive coordinator Jason Candle as his replacement, who has been at Toledo since the Tim Beckman era. But you never can judge exactly how a team will play with a change in staff, especially since Campbell has already said he will wait until the Rockets season is complete before raiding the team of its current coaches he wants to bring with him to Ames.
Meanwhile, Temple lost to Houston in the ACC title game on Dec. 5th, 24-13, otherwise they’d already have won that elusive and magical 11th game in 2015. You can almost always judge a program by wins. A 10-win season is what every program strives for, but an 11th win means you made good in the postseason, so I fully expect the Owls to show up on Tuesday night in Boca Raton with unfinished business to attend too. Plus, they go into the bowl with head coach Matt Rhule recently signed to a contract extension after Rhule briefly flirted with Missouri about their vacant coaching spot.
This game is so nicely matched that oddsmakers originally opened it as a pick ‘em, but after some afterthought and a week and a half of being on the board the point spread has moved to Temple favored at 1.5-points. Although several sportsbooks have moved the number all the way to Temple minus -2. The over/under total opened at 51 and is hovering in that 51 to 51.5 range at most books offshore and in Las Vegas.
Even though Campbell has moved on, the Rockets still will have their full arsenal on offense including their one-two punch at running back with Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson. Senior QB Phillip Ely will be playing in his last game as a Rocket too, so getting Ely in a rythem early with heavy doses of Hunt and Swanson will be huge for controlling the nerves. Temple defense held a pretty prolific Houston offense to 24 points in the finale, and actually finished the year as the 16th-ranked defense in scoring in FBS with a low 19.2 points per game average. Seeing the strength-vs.-strength battle of the Rockets offense butt heads with the Owls defense will be worth watching come Tuesday.
These two school has a solid history playing against one another back when Temple was in the MAC, with the Rockets enjoying a 5-2 SU and 4-3 ATS record in matchups against the Owls (from 1987-2011). Toledo also represents the MAC well when they play out of conference, going 3-0-1 ATS in non-conference games the past two seasons. Temple is 1-4 ATS against teams from the MAC recently, and 0-3-1 ATS playing on Tuesday night.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Toledo won’t have as much success running through the Temple defense like they did through defenses in the MAC this season, but a senior-laden Rockets team won’t let them walk away in 2015 without a battle. Temple has the stability, but Toledo will win this one late on emotion. I’m taking Toledo plus the 1.5 to 2 points.
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