When Temple travels to Raymond James Stadium for a game against South Florida, there is nothing on the line other than an AAC East title for the Owls and a chance for USF to stay in the AAC East race. Other than that, tonight’s 7 p.m. game (CBS Sports Network) is just your run-of-the-mill regular season game. Will the moment be too big for the Owls? Fortunately, they’ve had moments (Penn State, Cincinnati, Notre Dame) just as big and that kind of experience could serve them well tonight. Here are five keys to watch.
- OL Cohesiveness
Center Kyle Friend figures to be out for what head coach Matt Rhule called a “long, long time.” Since there’s less than a month to a possible AAC championship game, got to figure Friend is out until then if not the bowl game. Brendan McGowan subbed and had a terrific block on the Jager Gardner 94-yard touchdown run. He needs to sustain that kind of play for four quarters.
- Jahad’s Health
Last week, Jahad Thomas did not look fully recovered from the pulled stomach muscle he suffered against Notre Dame. Sources inside the E-O say he is fully recovered and the Owls need him to return to the kind of form he had against both Penn State and Cincinnati. If not, establishing Jager Gardner on consecutive series probably would help him establish a rhythm better than alternating him with Ryquell Armstead on every other series.
- Big Game for Robby Anderson
All year long we’ve been waiting for the Plantation (Fla.) native to return to the kind of form he had in 2013. A number of factors stunted those expectations, the first of which was the emergence of offensive weapons all over the field. Still, Anderson had a cosmic connection with P.J. Walker in 2013 and it would help the Owls’ cause if he had the kind of three-touchdown game he had in the final game of the 2013 season at Memphis.
- Pass Rush on Quinton Flowers
The Owls have have the kind of tacklers who swarm to the ball and have stopped premier running backs, so assuming they stop USF sophomore tailback Marlon Mack, they will have to redial the kind of fierce pass rush they had against Christian Hackenberg the first game of the season. If they do, Flowers has been known to put it up indiscriminately and, in Sean Chandler and Tavon Young, the Owls have a pair of ballhawking corners.
- Cutting Down The Nets
Whoops, wrong sport, but you get the idea. If the Owls win, it will be a milestone that will last through a very spirited rendition of T for Temple U in front of the large Temple contingent that figures to make the game and partially fulfilling a promise Matt Rhule made to Temple basketball fans here of bringing a football championship to Temple. (There are a whole lot of Philadelphians who live in the Tampa Bay area in the winter, many from Temple.) Since no AAC East Trophy will be awarded, the only reward for winning this game is a spot in the title game and that’s worth celebrating. Then it will be time to get to work to secure home-field advantage.