Temple hosts Syracuse with slight chance for bowl bid on line

Temple will likely need another big day from Montel Harris - he ran for 351 yards and seven TDs last week vs. Army - to have any chance of beating Syracuse.
Temple will likely need another big day from Montel Harris - he ran for 351 yards and seven TDs last week vs. Army - to have any chance of beating Syracuse. (MIKE GROLL / AP)
Posted: November 24, 2012

There's still a chance that Temple could play in a bowl game.

But the Owls (4-6, 2-4 Big East) must defeat Syracuse in the regular-season finale Friday at Lincoln Financial Field just to be considered.

Five victories could provide a bowl bid if the NCAA does not have enough teams with the six wins needed to become bowl-eligible. There are 63 bowl-eligible squads. The magic number is 70 - two teams for each of the 35 bowl games.

A win over the Orange (6-5, 4-2) could give Temple, which plays only 11 games this season, the nod over teams with 5-7 records. The Owls would have a better record percentage-wise.

But Temple may have to play a perfect game to defeat Syracuse.

Here are a few topics surrounding the game:

Owls' dominant offense

Remember Temple coach Steve Addazio's raving about Pittsburgh's and Louisville's offenses?

Well, Addazio thinks Syracuse's offense might be better. And he's probably right.

Averaging 473.3 yards per game, the Orange lead the Big East in scoring.

Fifth-year quarterback Ryan Nassib is sixth in the nation in total passing yards (3,404) and eighth in passing yards per game (309.4). The Malvern Prep product also leads the conference in touchdown passes (24).

Nassib also has two of the nation's most productive wideouts in Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales.

Lemon leads the Big East and ranks 13th nationally in receiving yards per game (98.9). The senior is also tops in the conference and 27th nationally in receptions per game (6.5).

Sales isn't too far behind. The fifth-year senior's 74.3 receiving yards per game ranks 50th nationally and fourth in the Big East. His average of 5.5 receptions ranks 56th nationally and third in conference.

The Orange also have a quality running back in Jerome Smith. The junior has 923 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Owls' deficient defense

Temple's defense must do a better job of eliminating big plays.

The Owls have surrendered 29 plays of 20 yards or more this season. Eleven of those plays were for 40 yards or more. Temple also routinely surrenders long scoring drives.

That's not the only cause for concern.

The Owls rank 117th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in pass efficiency defense with a 156.8 rating. Temple is also last in the Big East in scoring defense, yielding 30.5 points per game, and total defense, yielding 432.9 yards per game.

Orange's 'D' woes

The Orange also have a tough time stopping opponents.

Syracuse is ranked seventh in the Big East in passing defense (242.7 yards). Opposing quarterbacks are completing 62.7 percent on their passes against the Orange. And Syracuse has surrendered a conference-worst 20 touchdown passes.

The Orange are ranked sixth in the Big East in: total defense (389.2 yards per game), scoring defense (26.2 points per game), and pass-efficiency defense (142.6).

The only defenses worse than Syracuse's in those categories are South Florida's and Temple's.

The Juice factor

Temple likes to run first and run often. That enabled running back Montel Harris to rush for Temple and Big East records of 351 yards and seven touchdowns in Saturday's 63-32 victory over Army. While impressive, that performance came against one of the nation's worst run defenses.

The Owls must pass on early downs to keep the Orange from packing eight defenders into the box. Plus, Temple needs to take advantage of Syracuse's struggling pass defense.

Owls quarterback Juice Granger has a strong arm. The redshirt junior is inexperienced, however, with just one career start. The Owls should get him involved early so he can build confidence.

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @pompeysgridlock.