Memphis (5-3) at Temple (5-3) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Lincoln Financial Field (68,532) — Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Memphis 3-1, Temple 3-1. Away
Record: Memphis 2-2, Temple 2-2. Neutral Record: Memphis 0-0, Temple 0-0.
Conference Record: Memphis 3-1, Temple 3-2. Series Record: Temple leads, 1-0.

GAME NOTES: With the top of the American Athletic Conference standings in
shambles, the upstart Memphis Tigers and Temple Owls will attempt to earn a
key victory when the two teams meet at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday

The rest of the league can thank Temple for breaking the conference title
chase wide open. The Owls hosted East Carolina last weekend and sent the then
nationally-ranked Pirates home with their first league loss of the season.
Temple, meanwhile, has quietly gone 5-3 overall and 3-2 in conference, putting
it right in the thick of things.

Memphis certainly benefited from the ECU loss, as it is now tied with Houston,
UCF, Cincinnati and the Pirates for first place in the AAC standings. The
Tigers plowed past Tulsa last weekend with a 40-20 victory, marking their
second straight win and third in the last four games overall. They have scored
at least 40 points in each of those victories.

These two teams had never met before mixing it up last season in Memphis. The
visiting Owls came away with an easy 41-21 victory in that contest, although
that was just the second win of the season for them.

Despite a steady loss of depth in the backfield, Memphis has seen significant
improvement on offense, especially recently. Led by the resurgence of Brandon
Hayes, the Tigers have averaged 496.5 yards over the last four contests. Hayes
has had a lot to do with the last two performances, with back-to-back 100-yard
showings, including his 199-yard, three-touchdown effort against Tulsa. Hayes
has rushed for 531 yards and five touchdowns in total. He may not have backup
Sam Craft to lean on this weekend as Craft is listed as questionable for an
undisclosed reason.

Quarterback Paxton Lynch has also played well over the last few weeks,
although he finished with only 183 passing yards against Tulsa. Obviously, the
Tigers didn’t need him to be extremely productive through the air, but he has
proven he can be, with two 300-yard efforts in the last four games. In all, he
has completed 64 percent of his attempts for 1,891 yards and 10 touchdowns. He
also has six interceptions this season, while tallying a team-high seven
touchdowns on the ground.

Tevin Jones and Keiwone Malone are the team’s most prolific receivers. Jones
leads the way in receptions (27) and receiving yards (356), and he has a pair
of touchdown catches. Malone has 315 yards on 23 receptions, but he has yet
to get into the end zone. Tight end Alan Cross (19 receptions, 262 yards,
three TDs) hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since the third week of the season.

By creating consistent pressure, Memphis has managed to be one of the better
defensive teams in the AAC. The Tigers are tied for the second-most sacks in
the conference (21), led by Tank Jakes (55 tackles, 12.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks), and
they rank third in the league in scoring defense (19.4 ppg) and fourth in
total defense (350.6 ypg).

It wasn’t Temple’s offense that got the job done against ECU, as the Owls
managed only 10 first downs and 135 total yards in the win. The defense just
made big plays when it needed to, making up for the fact that it allowed 432
total yards and 30 first downs, by recovering five fumbles.

Poor weather clearly affected both offenses, but Temple hasn’t been all that
potent even when conditions are perfect. The Owls rank eighth in the AAC in
total offense (317.6 ypg), although they sit fourth in scoring (29.4 ppg).

P.J. Walker has been enduring some tough times recently. He completed only 7-
of-19 pass attempts against ECU and finished with a season-low 70 yards. At
least he avoided throwing an interception, something he had done six times in
the previous three games and nine times overall. He has totaled 1,539 yards
and 11 touchdowns as well. He can run the ball too, with three rushing
touchdowns and a 70-yard rushing effort under his belt this season.

Jahad Thomas (362 yards) is the leading rusher for the Owls, but he has had
totals of 49, 27 and 28 yards in the last three weeks, respectively. Kenneth
Harper (147 yards, four TDs) scored two touchdowns against ECU, but he
finished with only 29 yards.

Jalen Fitzpatrick is the only receiver who gets consistent work for the Owls.
He leads the team in receptions (32), receiving yards (448) and touchdown
catches (five) by a healthy margin.

Temple’s opportunistic play on defense wasn’t something new against ECU. The
Owls are tied with Houston for the league lead in forced turnovers (24), which
has helped make up for a more pedestrian ranking in total defense (371.3 ypg,
sixth). The Owls are second in the conference in scoring defense (18.4 ppg).

It is difficult to determine which version of each of these teams will take
the field on Friday night. The Tigers have been dominating the competition
recently, but they stumbled to a 28-24 loss to Houston at home less than a
month ago. Temple just upset ECU, but without heavy rains it might not have
put an end to a two-game losing streak. All in all, Temple’s offense is just
too inconsistent to be relied upon.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 28, Temple 27