#76 Temple Football 2016 Preview

Temple Owls
Overall Rank: #76
#6 American
Temple got off to a great start in 2015, sacking Penn State for a 27-10 opening game win and following it up with six more victories. Then the Owls ran into Notre Dame, who they battled tight and ended up losing 24-20. After that, the Owls had a mixture of results, including losses to South Florida, Houston and Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl. Despite the less than spectacular finish, Temple did win ten games and that is a massive season for the Owls and Coach Matt Rhule.
2015 Record: 10-4, 7-1
2015 Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl vs. Toledo (L 17-32)
Coach: Matt Rhule (18-20 at Temple, 18-20 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Glenn Thomas
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Snow
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jahad Thomas, RB, 1,262 yards
Passing: P.J. Walker, QB, 2,973 yards
Receiving: Ventell Bryant, WR, 579 yards
Tackles: Jarred Alwan, LB, 74
Sacks: Haason Reddick, DL, 5.0
Interceptions: Sean Chandler, DB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Jager Gardner, OL Dion Dawkins, DB Nate L. Smith, DL Praise Martin-Oquike
Key Losses: WR Robbie Anderson, WR Brandon Shippen, OL Eric Lofton, OL Kyle Friend, LB Tyler Matakevich, DL Nate D. Smith, DL Matt Ioannidis, S Alex Wells
Last year it was the defense that led the way. The unit ranked second in the AAC in rush defense and pass defense and first in total defense. But now there are some big holes to fill. Linebacker Tyler Matakevich is gone after totaling 138 tackles and 15.0 tackles for loss. So are linemen Matt Ioannidis, Nate D. Smith and Hershey Walton. Logically the defense will take a step back, but that does not mean Temple is lacking in talent on the defensive side of the ball. Ends Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike combined to account for 21.5 tackles-for-loss and 9.0 sacks. The Owls also add highly regarded recruit Karamo Dioubate who could make an immediate impact. At linebacker, the senior trio of Jarred Alwan, Avery Williams and Stephaun Marshall will be asked to pick up their production in what will likely be a futile effort to replace Matakevich. Sean Chandler and Nate L. Smith are the experienced returnees in the secondary, but it will be the play of the front seven and how well Temple can replace their former stars with new stars that dictates just how good this defense will be in 2016.
Quarterback P.J. Walker will once again lead an average and inefficient offense. Walker threw for nearly 3,000 yards with 19 touchdowns a year ago and is poised for a big senior season. Walker did boost his pass completion percentage to 56.8 and the hope is that number will continue to rise. Walker is also a dangerous scrambler and has a great burst of speed when he sees an opening. He only rushed for 207 yards, but he will use his feet to escape danger and turn up field when possible. Walker was often put in tough positions on third downs and most of the time he looked only at the now departed receiver Robby Anderson. Temple needs more weapons at receiver and maybe the ball will get spread around more to Ventell Bryant, Romond Deloatch and Adonis Jennings now that Anderson is gone. A better ground game would help too. Jahad Thomas rushed for 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns, which is great, but he had some off games too. Like Walker, Thomas has explosive playmaking abilities, but he rarely got the chance to show it.
The Bottom Line:
Temple will be an interesting team to watch this year. The offense will likely have to pick up some of the slack with a defense that will take a step back. The bigger question will be how far back does the defense go? The good news is that the schedule shapes up pretty nicely early in the year. The Owls host Army, Stony Brook and Charlotte in the first four weeks of the season, with a trip to Penn State sprinkled in there. That’s almost like playing three mid-level FCS teams, but without the bowl eligibility penalty. That should give Coach Rhule more than enough time to sort out both sides of the ball and head into AAC play with an eye on the AAC East title. It is also worth noting that Temple does not play either Houston or Navy in the regular season and they get perceived top East rival South Florida at the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field.
Projected Bowl: Miami Beach Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 149.7 (95th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 217.0 (72, 7)
Total Offense: 366.7 (96, 9)
Scoring Offense: 29.8 (60, 7)
Rushing Defense: 127.9 (24, 2)
Pass Defense: 209.1 (43, 2)
Total Defense: 337.0 (20, 1)
Scoring Defense: 29.8 (60, 7)
Turnover Margin: 0.21 (50, 7)
Sacks: 2.36 (42, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.29 (21, 2)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#192 Karamo Dioubate