Temple Football RB Ryquell Armstead hopes to be healthy for the Independence Bowl.
Temple Football RB Ryquell Armstead hopes to be healthy for the Independence Bowl.|Temple Football
NCAAF

NCAAF: Temple-Duke Independence Bowl Preview

Thursday Dec. 27, 2018 at 1:30 pm. TV: ESPM. DTV 206

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

Temple has been here before. Recently, in fact.

Two years ago, the Owls, fresh off winning their first conference title (American Athletic) in five decades, drew Wake Forest in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, where three weeks earlier they had beaten host Navy in the AAC championship game. But they played without coach Matt Rhule, who had left for Baylor, which is what happens in the AAC whenever somebody does something. They move on to a Power Five job.

Anyway, the Owls were still a slight favorite. Yet they would lose, 34-26, after falling way behind in the first half.

Now the Owls are going to face another ACC team, Duke, on Dec. 27 in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. It’s the first meeting. And once again, they will be going there without their coach, Geoff Collins, who has not shockingly left for Georgia Tech.

Assistant Ed Foley, who has worked for four coaches on North Broad, will once again be the interim guy. He obviously doesn’t want to see a repeat of 2016. Temple had been to four bowls before 2015. This senior class has doubled that total. That’s something. But the Owls also lost in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl to Toledo, also as a slight fave. So there is that.

They did beat Florida International, 28-3, in last year’s Gasparilla Bowl. Temple has never won bowls in back-to-back seasons. This year the Owls started 0-2, which included an opening loss to FCS Villanova, then turned their season around by upsetting Maryland on the road. They’ve won six of their last seven, which included beating Cincinnati and South Florida at home and Houston down there. Their only loss in that stretch was at Central Florida, which of course hasn’t lost in two years. And they were in the game the whole time.

Duke started 4-0 but dropped four of its last six. The Blue Devils closed with a 59-7 loss to Wake Forest at home, which is hard to do.  So is giving up 340 rushing yards. They’re lost six of their last nine against the spread. They scored 13 points in their last two games, although the other was at Clemson. They average 5.4 yards per play, which is 92nd in the FBS. Temple gives up 4.49 per snap, which is sixth. Duke’s quarterback, junior Daniel Jones, does have pro potential.

Duke has won its last two bowl games, in 2015 and last year, over Indiana in overtime and Northern Illinois. They hadn’t won one since 1961. And under David Cutcliffe they lost bowls in 2012-14 to Cincy, Texas A&M and Arizona State. The last two were close. In this one they’re getting four points.

QB Anthony Russo, who’s been a big part of the second-half surge, missed the finale against Connecticut with a hand injury. Didn’t matter, because UConn stinks. So the Owls rolled. He should be back. And if the Owls can get their running game going with Ryquell Armstead, it would make things easier on whoever is under center.

It’s probably not the kind of matchup you want to fall in love with too much, either way. I liked the Owls last year, and they came through. But I also liked them against Toledo. I think they’re the better team. Maybe not by much. So if the spread scares you, I get it. You can always get a dog, as my good friend likes to remind me. I think Foley will be able to get his guys to go out the right way. Maybe having been through something like this so recently -- and failed -- will work in their favor.

Temple said they wanted to play a Power Five opponent. That’s what the Owls got. Now we’ll find out. I’m seeing something along the lines of Temple by a touchdown.

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