Midshipmen eye New Year's six spot
Temple enters Saturday’s American Athletic Conference championship game having won six in a row. But will Navy’s powerful ground assault be too much for Matt Rhule’s bunch to handle?
The two programs clash at 12 p.m. ET in Maryland. Online sports book BetDSI opened the Midshipmen as 2.5-point favorites over the Owls. The over/under is set at 60.
This marks familiar territory for Temple (9-3), which dropped last year’s AAC title tilt to Houston. However, that team didn’t exhibit quite the same level of defensive dominance. The 2016 secondary flat-out terrorizes the opposition. Among all FCS competitors, only Michigan permits fewer yards through the air.
Rhule and his coaching staff happen to field a fearsome front four, too, headlined by Praise Martin-Oguike and Haason Reddick. They must perform better than ever to neutralize Navy’s (9-2) patented triple-option attack. With quarterback Will Worth leading the charge, Ken Niumatalolo’s squad averages 342 rushing yards a contest.
Conversely, Temple fans understand their main playmaker’s preference for slinging the pigskin. Senior signal-caller Phillip Walker has thrown for 2,700 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 12 starts. He’s complemented by tailbacks Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead, each of whom accounted for 12 scores during the regular campaign.
Momentum may be on the Owls’ side, but we can’t ignore the fact that the Midshipmen have put up 66 and 75 points, respectively, in the past two weeks. Despite the abundance of NFL-caliber defensive talent of the field, expect a shootout. Conceivably, it could boil down to which crew gets the final possession.
SATURDAY NCAA FREE PICK: TEMPLE/NAVY OVER 60 POINTS