Both of these teams had impressive starts to the season, opening 7-0 with big non-Conference wins. But once the Schedule started to pick up, losses came about and they both closed the regular season with a loss. These are two similar teams and that’s evident in this spread with Temple opening as a -1 point favorite (at 5 Dimes Sportsbook) over Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Toledo finished with nine wins, but it’s basically 10 because its opening Game against Stony Brook was cancelled. The Rockets had some impressive early-season wins though, highlighted by a 16-12 road win at Arkansas. They were cruising through the MAC until faced with the high-scoring offenses of Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, their only two losses of the season. One worry for this team is that they’ll be without their head coach who is now with Iowa State.
On the other end of that, Temple just agreed to a six-year deal with head coach Matt Rhule. The Owls had a similar start to the season with wins over Penn State and Cincinnati. But after losing to Notre Dame, the defense started to slip and that showed in losses to South Florida and Houston in the AAC title Game.
Both of these teams are known for defense and that will probably make this one a low-scoring contest. Toledo finished the season with some higher scoring Games, but that was partly due to its Schedule against offense-heavy MAC teams. Temple closed the season with three straight unders.
The Rockets have relied on former Alabama quarterback Phillip Ely to run the offense this year and he’s done a solid job with 21 TDs and 10 INTs. This team may be defensive heavy, but throughout the year, Ely has led them to some big Games, including back-to-back 50-plus outings, albeit against bottom feeders. Even with Ely, the Rockets will rely on the ground Game from the start with Terry Swanson (870 yards, 7 TDs) and Kareem Hunt, who has ran for 545 yards and 7 TDs in the last Four Games.
That’s where Temple’s defense comes in, which is stout against the run and pass. Holding top offenses like Notre Dame and Houston were impressive feats, even in losses. They are led by linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who won national defensive player of the year.
But again, the Owls will need to find a way to score. They run a similar offense led by P.J. Walker, who has 19 TDs and 7 INTs for the year. But like the Rockets, are led by a power ground attack. Jahad Thomas had a big start to the season, but has struggled to get anything going in the second half. He still has 1,257 yards and 17 TDs for the season.
These teams are oddly similar and that’s seen in the spread, which could end up at a pick ’em. The Rockets probably have the better offense, but the Owls have the better defense.
The Rockets are 3-0-1 ATS in their last Four non-Conference Games while the Owls have multiple trends that point to the under in this situation.
Our Pick – Temple -2