Temple Owls (2-1 SU, 0-3 ATS) vs. South Florida Bulls (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date/Time: Thursday, September 21st, 7:30 PM
Where: Raymond James Stadium
By Mike M., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TEM +18 / USF -18
Over/Under Total: 58.5
South Florida and Temple meet at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday for the opening game of the American Athletic Conference season, with the Owls looking to win their second straight AAC championship after having taken home the prize last season and the Bulls hoping to gore their way to their first ever conference title in the schools twenty year football program history.
With last Fridays 47-23 victory against Illinois, South Florida improved their record to 3-0 on the season while also extending their streak to 20 games in a row in which they have scored at least 30 points in a game. During said run of twenty games they have averaged just under 44 points per game and put up a record of 17-3, with their only losses against a ranked Western Kentucky team in the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl along with last seasons only blights, Florida State and Temple. The loss to the Owls in 2016 was especially disheartening as they entered the game as a six point favorite and in control of their own AAC title destiny, and now a season later will have a chance for atonement and revenge with Temple in town for this weeks primetime showdown.
A great deal of South Floridas recent run of success can be attributed to quarterback and Heisman dark horse candidate Quinton Flowers, who has continued in 2017 right where he left off from his success of last season, throwing for 678 yards and eight touchdowns to six different players, along with having rushed for 243 yards and additional two scores on the ground. His favorite targets continue to be wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Tyre McCants, with the former leading the team on the season so far with 14 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Thankfully for Flowers the backfield behind him has done well to keep some of the pressure off of him, which was somewhat of a concern entering the season after having lost their leading rusher in school history Marlon Mack to the NFL, but the combination of Darius Tice and DErnest Johnson has exceeded those worrisome expectations and along with their leader Flowers will be looking to exploit a Temple defense that has seen a drastic decline in play since the end of last season.
The Owls defense closed out 2016 ranked 11th in scoring, 3rd against the pass and 3rd in overall yards allowed per game, and while a drop in effectiveness can be expected with only four starters back and having had lost 6 of their top 7 in tackles, there is not much that can excuse their porousness through the first quarter of the season so far, with the team currently ranking 96h against the run and 120th against the pass. Temple allowed over 400 yards on the ground and three different players to eclipse the century mark in week one against Notre Dame, and now has to travel on the road on a short week to battle a South Florida offense that themselves had three players go over 100 yards rushing just last week in their beatdown of Illinois.
Unfortunately for Temple fans the struggles on the defensive side are not the only ones the team is experiencing, with the offense currently ranked 98th in total yards per game and has scored over 20 points just once so far this season. The rushing attack led by Ryquell Armstead has fizzled to start the year, with the team having scored just one touchdown on the ground thus far and currently sitting at 116th in the nation. Armstead, who finished last year with 14 rushing touchdowns, has yet to score this season and has rushed for just 177 yards on 48 carries which translates to an unfortunate average of 3.7 yards per carry. Thankfully the passing game has been better (48th in country in yards per game) with quarterback Logan Marchi having thrown for an efficient 5/0 TD-INT ratio while finding consistent connections with the same top three at the receiver position as last year - Keith Kirkwood, Isaiah Wright and Adonis Jennings.
The spread for Thursdays game currently sits at 18 points, which seems like it would be a good set up for Temple as they performed well in the underdog role of late, putting up a 6-2 record against in their last eight games as a road dog and 7-2 in their last nine getting double digit points. Unfortunately for the Owls and their financial backers, this is a prime example of when the trend is not your friend as all of their recent dog success was under previous head coach Matt Rhule, and since he has left they have gone four straight without covering the point spread while on the side Quinton Flowers and South Florida have had the clear upper hand against the number of late, going 11-4-1 in their last 16 at home, 9-3 versus the AAC and 8-2-1 in their 11 games as a home favorite.
Though the line for the game is higher than originally expected, I am still backing the Bulls on this one. They have clear payback in mind after their loss to Temple last season and has the benefit of getting a clearly depleted Owl team that got blown out on the road in week one against Notre Dame and struggled mightily at home over the past few weeks to barely get past lowly Villanova and UMass. In a matchup of two AAC teams playing their first conference games under new head coaches, you can count on Charlie Strong and his South Florida Bulls to get the win and cover at home against the Temple Owls.
Mike M’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: South Florida -18. Bet your pick for this game using your credit card at a sportsbook where it WILL work for deposits and take advantage of their 100% signup bonus on your first deposit up to $100! (Example: Deposit $100 and they’ll give you an extra $100 FREE!) Find this great offer at Intertops Sportsbook.