Toledo v. #24 Temple
FAU Stadium — Boca Raton, FL
December 22, 2015 — 7:00 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
This is a major contest between two Group of Five teams that both harbored legitimate chances at snagging the Access Bowl bid. One came up just short in its shot at winning its division, the other managed to reach its conference championship game before flaming out. Both teams can claim victories over Power Five opposition, and it almost feels like a disservice to plant them in a Conference USA stadium in a tony beach community north of Miami for their postseason reward. With a combined 19-5 record, this is the best matchup in terms of aggregate wins and losses to this point of the bowl calendar, and is the perfect way to spend a Tuesday night in December.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Toledo was just inside the top 25 in scoring offense, and just outside the top 25 in the same stat on defense. The Rockets were a well-balanced team in 2015, missing out on a chance to get to 10 wins when their game against FCS Stony Brook was canceled by inclement weather as well as the MAC West title, but they nevertheless demonstrated a propensity to come up big against major competition. Before even commencing their conference schedule, Toledo had already taken out Arkansas and Iowa State in close encounters. They stiffened defensively as teams got closer to their goal line; by the end of the regular season the Rockets boasted the third-best red zone defense in the country. They arrive in Florida on a bit of a letdown, their loss to Western Michigan in the regular season finale preventing the Rockets from playing for the MAC title after NIU had opened the door. But despite that disappointment, Toledo brings a strong team that will be motivated by a chance to claim the school’s first 10-win season since 2001.
Just like Toledo, Temple opened the year with a statement win over a Power Five foe by taking down Penn State at home. By the time they faced Notre Dame on Halloween, the Owls were 7-0 and nationally ranked. A close loss to the Fighting Irish didn’t put a serious dent in their credibility, though later losses to South Florida and Houston eliminated them from consideration for a New Year’s Six berth. Matt Rhule’s team has won on the strength of its defense, which ranks in the top 25 nationally against both the pass and the run and allows fewer than 20 points per outing. That has allowed a good-but-not-great offense to pull its weight enough to get to 10 wins for the first time since 1979. No Temple team has ever won 11 games in a single season, providing ample motivation after the disappointment of the AAC championship game for Bednarik and Nagurski Award winner Tyler Matakevich and crew.
What is Likely to Happen
Usually when highly-rated mid-major squads square off in bowl games, what transpires is a pointsplosion that threatens to set the scoreboard ablaze. There should be no danger of that at FAU Stadium on the 22nd, as Toledo and Temple are more likely to wage a defensive struggle against one another that will result in a close game throughout the Florida night. The Owls field the better of the two defensive units, and they will prove why they were one of the stingiest defenses in the entire country. P.J. Walker will do enough to outduel Phillip Ely on a day where both are likely to commit at least one turnover. By the end of the contest Temple should have done just enough to beat the 1.5-point spread being laid down by Vegas.
Temple 24, Toledo 20
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