Temple University is playing its best football at the end of its season, with only one thing remaining: a bowl game.
The Owls closed the regular season on Saturday with a 57-7 road win against Connecticut, recording their largest margin of victory against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in program history.
Temple will play in a bowl game for a program-record fourth consecutive season.
The American Athletic Conference has first priority in seven bowl games — the Armed Forces, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Cure, Frisco, Gasparilla and Military bowls. A school from The American could also possibly play in either the Liberty Bowl or Independence Bowl through the conference’s secondary affiliations.
The Owls (8-4, 7-1 The American) will participate in one of those games. The earliest the Owls could play in a bowl is on Dec. 15 in the Cure Bowl. The FBS hosts bowls from Dec. 15 through Jan. 1.
“I’m just happy we get to develop the young guys even more and spend more quality time with these seniors and really enjoy the moments being with them and being able to coach them because it’s a special group,” coach Geoff Collins said on Saturday.
Temple’s offense has recorded at least 500 yards of offense and scored 40 or more points in three of its final four games. Defensively, the Owls have forced 12 turnovers in their past three games.
“[The bowl game] is the last game of the season, so it should be your best,” redshirt-sophomore center Matt Hennessy said.
Temple will have 15 practices over the next few weeks to prepare for its bowl game.
The time before the Owls’ postseason game will give players like Hennessy, senior running back Ryquell Armstead and redshirt-sophomore quarterback Anthony Russo, who missed Saturday’s game with an injury, an opportunity to rest. Hennessy returned to the lineup against UConn after missing two games with an injury.
The Owls will most likely play a Power Five school after finishing the season with the second-best record in conference play. If Central Florida beats Memphis in the conference championship game on Saturday, UCF will likely play in a New Year’s Six Bowl instead of an American-affiliated game.
Here are four projections of possible bowl matchups for Temple, after the last week of regular-season action.
Sports Illustrated’s Eric Single projects Temple will play Utah State University, the No. 24 team in the Coaches Poll, for the first time in program history on Dec. 19 in Frisco, Texas.
While Utah State (10-2, 7-1 Mountain West Conference) isn’t a Power Five school, the Aggies are tied for second-best record of any Group of Five school behind UCF (11-0, 8-0 The American).
Utah State’s offense averages 47.2 points per game, which is third in the FBS. If the Owls play the Aggies, they’ll face their third opponent with a top-10 scoring offense. The Owls conceded 52 points to UCF in their loss on Nov. 1 and allowed 49 points to Houston in their win on Nov. 10.
On defense, the Aggies rank 38th, conceding 23 points per game. They had a five-game streak nearing the end of the season where they held their opponents to less than 25 points, except in their final game where they conceded 33 points.
Limiting turnovers will be key for both offenses in this potential matchup.
The Owls and the Aggies are tied for third in forced turnovers with 28 in 12 games.
Temple leads the FBS with seven defensive touchdowns. Utah State is tied for second in the nation with six defensive scores, all of which are interception returns. The Owls’ quarterbacks have thrown 18 interceptions this season.
The Birmingham Bowl has featured a matchup between a school from The American and a Power Five team, since the conference’s inaugural season in 2013. Teams from the American are 2-3 in the Birmingham Bowl.
College Football News predicts Temple will square off against Auburn University (7-5, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) on Dec. 22 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Auburn’s defense allowed 19.6 points per game, which would be the third-best defense the Owls have faced this season behind UCF and Cincinnati. Temple scored 40 points against UCF and 24 in an overtime win against Cincinnati on Oct. 20.
The Tigers have only turned the ball over once in their past five games, with a total of 13 all season. Both Temple and Auburn’s sacks per game rank in the top 30 of the FBS. The Tigers have recorded 35 sacks compared to the Owls’ 33.
The Tigers are undefeated in non-conference games this season.
Three of the previous four Military Bowl games featured a school from The American that finished 7-1 in conference play.
CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm predicts Temple to return to Annapolis, Maryland, for the second time in three seasons to play an ACC opponent. Palm projects the Owls to play Georgia Tech (7-5, 5-3 ACC) on Dec. 31.
In 2016, Temple lost to Wake Forest University, 34-26, at the Military Bowl.
Georgia Tech and Temple would both enter the first meeting between the programs averaging 35.6 points per game, which ranks 24th in the FBS.
The Yellow Jackets possess the No. 1 rushing offense in the FBS, averaging 334.9 yards on the ground. In 12 games, Georgia Tech ranks third in rushing attempts with 701.
The potential matchup would be Temple’s second against a triple-option offense this season. The Owls held Navy to 17 points, which is below the Midshipmen 26.3 average points per game. The Owls have a 3-2 record in their games against triple-option offenses since 2016.
Armed Forces Bowl
Temple has a small chance it could play its former coach Matt Rhule, who now leads Baylor University’s team, according to Bleacher Report. The Owls could face Baylor in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 22 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Baylor (6-6, 4-5 Big 12 Conference) is bowl eligible for the first time in Rhule’s two seasons as coach. From 2013-16, Rhule totaled 28 wins and led the Owls to bowl eligibility three of his four seasons at Temple.
The American and Big 12 have primary tie-ins to the Armed Forces Bowl this season.
The Big 12 may not be able to send a representative to the Armed Forces Bowl if the University of Oklahoma wins the Big 12 Championship game on Saturday and make the College Football Playoff. This would leave six-teams from the conference for seven bowl selections.
The Armed Forces Bowl is the only of the seven bowl tie-ins for the Big 12 that is against a Group of Five school. The means either Baylor, Oklahoma State University, or Texas Christian University, who each have 6 wins, will likely be selected for the bowl if the Sooners miss the playoffs.
Conference-USA would send a representative to the Armed Forces Bowl if the Big 12 is unable to.
Bowl games will be announced on Sunday starting at 3:30 p.m.