The first ever AAC championship Game is this weekend as Houston hosts Temple. The Owls squeaked out the East title after USF finished the season on a tear, but a Game behind. Houston’s only loss of the season was at Connecticut without its starting quarterback, and beat Navy last weekend to win the West. Playing at home, the Cougars opened as a -7 point favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
Temple has had an impressive season and only really has one slip up on the year. The Owls started 7-0 before losing to Notre Dame, and then a 44-23 loss at USF was bad, but they haven’t really had much competition against the rest of the conference. Even against Memphis a couple weeks ago, they won convincingly 31-12. They’re unlucky to get a road Game and that could be their undoing.
Houston was extremely close to being undefeated, but a bad loss to UConn did them in. But with starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr. playing, this team has carved through the weaker teams in the AAC. However, it still can’t be ignored that they barely beat both Cincinnati and Memphis. Houston’s defense isn’t as good as Temple’s and that’s what could keep the Owls around in this one.
Temple is allowing 18.8 points per Game, and while they have a couple poor outings, still held Notre Dame to 24 points and Memphis to 12, which are both impressive.
Houston has been close to unstoppable with Greg Ward Jr. at quarterback, as they Score42 points per Game. Ward is completing 69.3% of his passes for 16 TDs and 5 INTs, but more importantly has ran for 893 yards and 17 more touchdowns. His running ability is the main reason he got hurt a few weeks ago. But he came back against Navy, and while not fully healthy, still had Four total touchdowns to go with 83 yards on the ground. He and Kenneth Farrow will look to have a big day, although Farrow is also battling injury and is questionable to play. If he can’t go, Brandon Wilson will get the nod and he did just fine against Navy with 111 yards and 2 TDs. Receiver Demarcus Ayers has been great this season with 1,140 yards and 6 TDs.
The Cougars have good defensive numbers, but a lot of that is from playing against weak AAC competition. against the better teams, they regularly gave up 30-plus points (Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, Navy).
The issue with that is that Temple isn’t really considered a good offense. The Owls scored 32 points per Game and beat teams with its defense more often than not. Still, it would be a mistake to discount running back Jahad Thomas who has had a huge year with 1,188 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’ll be vital in this Game against the No. 13 rush defense in the country. If they fall behind, quarterback P.J. Walker will have a bigger role and he’s been iffy on the year. Walker is completing 56.8% of his passes for 18 TDs and 6 INTs.
In last year’s meeting, Houston dominated 31-10, as Ward completed 29 of 33 pass attempts and the Cougars found success on the ground and in air. Temple’s offense will need to be better to have a shot in this Game.
The Owls are 5-1 ATS in their last five Games overall, while the Cougars are just 1-3 ATS in their last Four.
Our Pick – Temple +6.5