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It seems like so long ago, but Temple was at one point ranked last year with a 7-0 record and almost took down Notre Dame in their eighth game. However, things kind of fell apart after that as the Owls finished 10-4 with losses in the AAC title game against Houston and in the Boca Raton Bowl to Toledo. But with another favorable schedule and enough returning talent, they could easily find themselves in the same position as a year ago with head coach Matt Rhule in his fourth season.
Offense has usually been the downfall for Rhule's Temple teams, but another slight improvement could occur this season. P.J. Walker is back for his fourth season under center and he improved a bit last year throwing for 19 TDs and 8 INTs, although still only completed 56.8% of his passes. He's not a gunslinger by any means and his receiving targets are mostly new led by Ventell Bryant (39 receptions, 579 yards, 3 TDs) and a couple transfers that are expected to step right into the starting lineup.
But that's why this is a run-first offense. Jahad Thomas (1,262 yards, 17 TDs) is back to carry the load, but he'll likely relinquish more touches to sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who battled injury last year. Either way, expect just as much running from the Owls, and that is only possible with an experienced offensive line that returns four starters. The lone question comes at left guard, but every other spot is filled with upperclassmen led by tackle Dion Dawkins.
Defensively, it's hard to see Temple being as good when they allowed only 20.1 points per game. The Owls lose their best linebacker, but return enough talent that a major setback shouldn't be expected.
The line is filtered with studs and a few seniors that could all make the all-conference team. That starts with ends Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike along with tackle Averee Robinson. Linebacker loses their best guy, but still has plenty of experience with three seniors in tow. Secondary may be the biggest question for the Owls on defense with a lot of inexperience at safety. However, cornerback Sean Chandler may be their best player and he should keep this unit in check.
It was only a few years ago that Temple finished with just two wins, but now, bigger things are expected from Rhule's team. The Owls get another favorable non-conference slate that could see them win three games again, and that's if they lose at Penn State this year. Outside of that, the AAC schedule is friendly without any major tasks on the road. In cross-division play, the Owls draw Memphis, SMU and Tulane. In addition, they'll get the toughest AAC East teams (USF, Cincy) both at home.
Back-to-back double-digit win seasons seems like a big ask from this team, but it's in the cards. Their over/under is at 9 at 5 Dimes Sportsbook and that mark should be attainable given the schedule and experience at quarterback. As long as the defense doesn't take a major step back, expect the Owls to be in the mix again for the AAC championship game.
2016 Temple Owls Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. Army
Sept. 10 vs. Stony Brook
Sept. 17 at Penn State
Sept. 24 vs. Charlotte
Oct. 1 vs. SMU
Oct. 6 at Memphis
Oct. 15 at UCF
Oct. 21 vs. South Florida
Oct. 29 vs. Cincinnati
Nov. 4 at Connecticut
Nov. 19 at Tulane
Nov. 26 vs. East Carolina
#1 Rated Sportsbook At Bettorsworld? 5 Dimes