Tanardo Sharps was the number-one running back in the Big East after Temple’s 45-17 loss to Miami two weeks ago.
But then the team had a week off and Sharps lost that title to Boston College’s William Green. On Saturday the two go head-to-head with more than just the top Big East running back title on the line.
For Boston College, a win would assure them eligibility for a bowl bid. The Eagles are 5-3 with a 2-3 conference record; one more win would get them into a bowl position with a winning record.
Temple is 4-4 (1-3 Big East) and needs at least two wins to make its first bowl since 1979. With three games left for the Owls, including matchups against Pittsburgh and Syracuse, this Saturday’s game is huge.
“We’re two teams that are probably pretty close,” coach Bobby Wallace said. “I think it will be a pretty evenly matched game.”
The matchup that will be most scrutinized is that of the running backs. Sharps and Green are both ranked in the top-20 nationally in rushing. Green is No. 15 and Sharps at No. 20.
Sharps ran for only 37 yards against Miami and was held to 19 yards against Virginia Tech. Those two teams possess the top two rushing defenses in the Big East, while Boston College sits second to last.
Against Rutgers, who is behind Boston College’s rush defense by only five yards a game, Sharps ran for 168 yards.
“I think our whole team takes pride in Tanardo leading the Big East in rushing most of the year,” Wallace said. “If Tanardo is leading the conference next week we did a good job.”
If Sharps is leading the conference then that means he had a good day and Temple’s defense was able to control Green.
“He’s a big, strong, fast tailback,” Boston College coach Tom O’Brien said of Green. “He’s growing in the offense. After spring and fall practice he has a better grasp of the offense.”
Green has been putting up huge numbers, including a 223-yard performance in Boston College’s 42-13 win over Rutgers last week.
“It is a head-to-head battle between the two best rushers in the conference,” Wallace said. “I think Tanardo needed a rest. I saw a lot more quickness in him (at Monday’s practice).”
Head-to-head on the season, Green and Sharps have played some of the same teams. Against Virginia Tech, Green rushed for 117 yards; Sharps only had the 19 against the Hokies. Versus Navy, Green had 107 yards while Sharps had 180 yards — a career high to that point for the sophomore.
Besides Rutgers, the only other team both schools have faced has been West Virginia, against whom Green had 59 yards and Sharps had 113.
Saturday’s game will pit two evenly matched teams against each other. Temple’s rush defense is leaps and bounds over Boston College’s, but the pass defenses are reversed. Boston College ranks first in the conference in both passing defense and pass efficiency defense.
The Owls rank third in pass defense but sixth in efficiency defense. Boston College has the nation’s 16th ranked quarterback in Tim Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck and Green have led the Eagles to the second-best offense in the Big East, with 443 yards per game. Stopping the potent Eagle attack will be key for Temple’s defense.
“They run the football extremely well,” Wallace said. “They’re able to throw the football. We have to control the football
“We’re a much improved team, but we have to show it in the next three weeks.”
The next three weeks (Boston College, Syracuse and Pittsburgh) will determine if Temple has improved enough to keep playing into December.
“They’re a million percent better,” O’Brien said of Temple. “You expect that out of a Bobby Wallace-coached team.”