Temple-SMU Preview

November 3, 2015

A loss in its biggest game of the year didn't bring Temple's spot on the national stage into question. A second straight defeat, though, would likely end the Owls' turn in the spotlight.

The 23rd-ranked Owls will try to guard against a letdown game Friday night as they head on the road to face reeling American Athletic Conference foe SMU.

Temple (7-1, 4-0) came one or two plays short of winning the biggest game in program history Saturday, instead falling 24-20 to then-No. 9 Notre Dame. A record 69,280 fans packed Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field to watch the Owls play as a ranked team against a ranked team for the first time.

"As I told them before the game, this better not be the high point of our season," coach Matt Rhule said. "I think it just shows how good they've gotten, and they have to go finish it now."


Temple goes from a nationally televised stage against the most storied football program in the country to a road game against a team that has two wins in the last two seasons.

Rhule, though, is wary of a trap game.

"SMU hasn't played many bad teams," he said. "They've played some of the best teams in the country, they can score a ton of points and I have a lot of respect for coach (Chad) Morris. I think our team will be ready to play and be really excited to play."

Temple closes play at SMU and South Florida before a big home game against No. 15 Memphis and a visit from Connecticut.

The Owls' defense had been their calling card, but it is the unit that couldn't come up with a key stop down the stretch against the Fighting Irish. After Temple jumped ahead 20-17 with 4 minutes, 45 seconds to play, Notre Dame used just 2:42 of the clock on a game-winning 75-yard drive.

Notre Dame's 467 total yards and 168 rushing yards were the second-most Temple's defense has allowed this season.

More concerning for the Owls is the lumps they took physically. Rhule said his team may be without "a number of starters" against SMU.

Rhule didn't go into specifics about the injuries, but one starter banged up over the weekend was running back Jahad Thomas. Thomas, who leads the AAC with 113.0 rushing yards per game, said he hurt his ribs against Notre Dame.

"That game really took a toll," Rhule said. "It is a really beat up, beat up football team that we have right now. ... But I think we have a lot of good backups that are waiting their turns."

On a short week, Temple's offense will go against an SMU defense that has allowed an average of 46.7 points while trudging through a six-game losing streak.

The Mustangs (1-7, 0-4) will also play without linebacker Kyran Mitchell (knee) and defensive back Horace Richardson (shoulder) due to season-ending injuries.

SMU won't find much comfort from its recent history against ranked opponents. SMU has dropped 23 of its last 25 such games, including the last nine.

"We've got our work cut out for us this week," Morris said. "We've got an opportunity to play a very, very good football team on a national television stage at home this week. We'll be prepared."

The Mustangs have allowed 112 points to a pair of highly ranked teams this season, falling 56-21 at home to then-No. 4 Baylor on Sept. 4 and 56-37 at then-No. 3 TCU on Sept. 19.

Temple and SMU meet for the fourth time. The first two matchups in the 1940s ended in ties, while the Mustangs won 59-49 on Oct. 26, 2013.