1. Who will start? Who will finish?
After letting Chris Coyer be the only quarterback to see the field in the first four games, coach Steve Addazio yanked the starter in the second half versus Rutgers, starting a string of three consecutive games in which Coyer has started, but not finished, the contests. In that span, all of which resulted in losses against conference opponents, Temple has been outscored 127-44. Addazio has deployed three quarterbacks thus far, the same number he used last season. Coyer will probably get the start, but if he gets pulled again, it would be a hard sell to let him see the field again this season, especially because Cincinnati ranks last in the Big East Conference in passing defense.
2. Will the season end at the hands of the Bears?
The Owls sit at 3-5, needing three wins to become bowl-eligible. While they are involved in on-going discussions with Hawaii in regards to adding a game on Dec. 8, an agreement has not been reached. Adding the game this late in the season seems unlikely, giving this matchup utmost importance. If the game is not added, Temple will need to win out to have an opportunity to appear in a third-straight bowl game. If they fail to win against Cincinnati, the season effectively ends, and the players will be competing for roster spots next year, starting with the quarterback position.
3. Will Montel’s success continue?
Senior running back Montel Harris has been the lone bright spot of the Temple offense this year. After posting 35 yards rushing in the first three games, he has exploded for 543 yards in the five games since, an average of 108.6 yards-per-game. The fact that Temple has been blown out and forced to throw the ball makes fans wonder what he would do if the Owls could score some points and maintain a lead. His transfer has been a blessing to the team, having senior running back Matt Brown relegated to return duties due to injury. Harris’ ability to break tackles and make defenders miss can give Cincinnati problems if he has the opportunity to run.
4. Can the defense fix its problems?
Temple ranks last in the Big East in scoring defense and total defense while Cincinnati ranks first in scoring offense and second in total offense. While the defense has nowhere to go but down, it has talented playmakers capable of making game-changing plays. If they can fix their problems in pass-coverage, the Owls could surprise the Bears. While Cincinnati ranks second to last in the conference in passing offense, it still could find ways to exploit this defense full of holes. Senior Vaughn Carraway and freshman Nate D. Smith and Tyler Matakevich have talent, but they can’t carry the team. If the Owls revert to their old ways, this one could get ugly.
5. Can the Owls stop the dual-threat quarterback?
After pocket-passer Terry Bridgewater of Louisville dissected the Owls’ defense for five touchdowns last week, Temple faces a completely different player. Junior Munchie Legaux has been under center for Cincinnati all year, yet has thrown for only 230 yards and rushed for 330. The dual-threat quarterback was pulled in favor of senior Brendon Kay last game, but the general consensus is that Lagaux will start. Defending Coyer in practice every day could help the Owls use their talented linebackers to stop the run.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.