The Owls hopes for a New Year’s Six bowl berth and conference title, each took major hits last weekend when nationally ranked Temple was upset by South Florida.
Still boasting an impressive 8-2 mark, Temple will show what it’s really made of against another team vying for a prominent bowl in 8-2 Memphis, at home at the Linc Saturday afternoon.
“Last week was disappointment for us obviously but I think it can be a step forward for the program,” head coach Matt Rhule said, matter-of-factly in a press conference this week. “Ever since Notre Dame we haven’t played to the level that we’re capable of. And as a coach that’s on me, it’s my job. I’m supposed to get the team to play as well as it can.”
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The Owls will clinch the AAC East Division title if it wins its final two games against Memphis and Connecticut, but one thing at a time. They need to get back in the win column.
“They know where they stand. They’ve earned the right to control their own destiny,” Matt Rhule said. “They won eight games. That’s a credit, but we have to get back to playing better football.”
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After a 7-0 start to the season, Temple has dropped two of its last three games, starting with a heart-breaking setback against Notre Dame against an Owls record 69,000-plus fans.
Memphis will be yet another difficult test. The Tigers are the 21st ranked team in the nation and had been ranked as highly as No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings before losses to Navy and Houston (a blown 20-point lead led to their demise against the Cougars last week).
The Tigers will head to South Philly as a 1.5 point favorite, but are playing for just bowl positioning while Temple is still contending for a division title.
As much as Rhule wishes he could will his team to play more like they did early this season, it falls on the seniors to lead the Owls. It’s a group that has done a lot, but Rhule is hoping they still have more left to achieve.
“I think this would be their greatest accomplishment,” Rhule said. “It’s going to take unbelievable toughness to beat this Memphis team.”
Kickoff is at noon on ESPNU.