As bad as the Temple offense was a season ago, that’s about how bad the Cincinnati defense was over the same four months.
If Mr. Spock or Leonard Nimoy or anyone taking a logical look at this game tonight might conclude, how much Temple improved on offense vs. how much Cincinnati improved on defense really are the only important variables in determining a winner. The Bearcats were the nation’s 54th-rated defense in 2013 but followed that up by dropping to the No. 69th-ranked defense.
It’s hard to judge anything by a 52-10 win over Alabama A&M because that was a 4-8 FCS team a year ago. Last year, though, Cincinnati gave up 34 points to Toledo, 24 to Miami (Ohio), 50 to Ohio State, 41 to Memphis, 55 to Miami (Fla.), 46 to East Carolina, 31 to Houston and 33 to Virginia Tech. The fact that Temple scored only six was more of an indictment against Temple than praise of anything the Bearcats did.
Obviously, head coach Tommy Tuberville knew defense was the side of the ball he had to address last year so he either didn’t address it or the bandages he applied to the defense did not stop the bleeding. Let’s work on the first part of that theory. Tuberville, at Texas A&M, was a noted offensive mind and his teams won by concentrating on that side of the ball. Maybe he doesn’t place a whole lot of emphasis on defense.
The second part of the theory is that maybe the Bearcats do not have a whole lot of good players on that side of the ball and that seems to be also true. The strength of the defense appears to be the two interior tackles, while the Bearcats have not had acceptable play from the ends. That probably means the same kind of sweeps that worked for Jahad Thomas against Penn State will be there in abundance tonight.
In the secondary, Zach Edwards is arguably the best safety in the conference and will probably take away the middle of the field but those sideline patterns that worked so well for P.J. Walker to Robby Anderson in 2013 will be big-play opportunities.
If the Owls attack the edges with Thomas, then hit Anderson and Adonis Jennings with play-action plays away from the middle of the field, they should be able to get points off of this defense. Those quick outs that Anderson got tackled on against a good Penn State defense could turn into explosive plays downfield for Temple.
Hard to believe that a Cincy defense that dropped from 54 to 69 is going move from 69 to decent any time soon. At least, as Spock might say, it’s just not logical. Expect Temple to score 31 points tonight. Hard to believe even a good Cincinnati offense is going to get more than three scores against the Owls’ defense and probably less.