The Temple Owls football team has been a pleasant surprise for Philadelphians this season.
Coming off a two-win year in 2013, Matt Rhule has the Owls at 4-1 and in first place in the AAC thus far and has a bowl berth in sight.
One of the toughest tests for the Owls this season will be their date with Houston Friday at 9 p.m. The game will be on ESPNU and could be Temple's coming out party. Or, it could be a big setback.
"Houston is an outstanding team," Rhule said. "This stat is unbelievable: 30 straight games that they have gotten a turnover. ... They have 19 this year, so that's about three a game."
Houston, though just 3-3, is a double-digit favorite at home against Temple. It will be a hostile environment for the Owls, but one that helped them beat Vanderbilt earlier this year and could help them focus in Texas Friday.
"Sometimes it's nice to get away and get together," Rhule said. "Other than cell phones, there are no distractions, we are all there together. When we go into a hostile environment we have to lean on each other. We tell them to focus on each other, we did it against Memphis last year and hopefully we can do it Friday night."
Last year the Owls faltered against Houston to the tune of a 22-13 loss. This year, the matchup will pit two of the best defenses in college football. Houston leads the American Conference in total defense and Temple leads in scoring defense. The Owls have scored seven non-offensive touchdowns through five games.
Offensively, P.J. Walker has been solid for Temple, compiling 1,099 passing yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Jahad Thomas leads Temple on the ground with 258 yards on 39 rushing attempts following a breakout performance last week in a homecoming win against Tulsa (he had 152 yards in the 35-24 win).
If the Owls can protect the ball and get their running game going, it could be a Texas-sized upset.
"It's an exciting week for us," Rhule said. "It's a short week, but it's an exciting week. I told the kids, it's 'Friday Night Lights.' We're going to Texas to play on Friday night, something you dream of. Something I thought I'd never have the chance to do, to play on national TV and represent Temple on ESPNU. I think it's a great opportunity for us and hopefully we'll play well."