I can only hope my Vegas adventures next weekend can come close to the KSK & Deadspin peeps exploits in Miami last week. [KSK]
Temple (9-3) at No. 19 Navy (9-2)
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Saturday, noon, ABC
It would have been hard to picture Temple in the American Athletic Conference championship game after the Owls’ first game of the season, a 28-13 loss to Army.
But that’s exactly where they are three months later, as Temple will take on No. 19 Navy in the conference championship game Saturday.
The Owls and Midshipmen have both been handling opponents as of late. Temple’s won its last four games by at least three touchdowns, while Navy has outscored opponents 141-62 in its past two games.
Let’s take a look at how one of the country’s top offenses and one of the country’s top defenses match up.
The Owls' defense seems to get better every week. Temple ranks No. 3 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense and No. 10 in scoring defense. The only two teams that rank higher than the Owls in both categories are Alabama and Michigan.
Teams haven’t scored more than 13 points against the Owls in their last four games, and Temple is outscoring opponents 123-23 during that stretch.
Redshirt-senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick was named a first team all-conference selection earlier this week. He leads the FBS in tackles for loss. Redshirt-senior Praise Martin-Oguike is coming off one of his best games of the season last week against East Carolina, in which he had two sacks, including a forced fumble. He has seven sacks this season.
On offense, Temple’s goal this week will be to sustain drives and keep Navy’s offense off the field. The Owls are currently No. 5 in the FBS in time of possession, holding the ball for more than 34 minutes per game.
Earlier in the week, coach Matt Rhule said senior quarterback Phillip Walker was questionable for Saturday’s game. Walker will likely play, but the Owls might be without one of their top offensive weapons.
Rhule said sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead is doubtful. Armstead has 842 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
The Midshipmen have one of the simplest — yet at that same time one of the best — offenses in the country. Navy ranks No. 2 in rushing yards at 342 yards per game.
Quarterback Will Worth runs the triple option for Navy. He has 2,544 total yards of offense and 33 total touchdowns. He’s passed for 1,363 yards and rushed for 1,181 more. Worth has a touchdown in 11 straight games.
Worth has attempted 258 rushes compared to 115 passing attempts. Four other Navy players have at least 40 rushing attempts this season.
Senior wide receiver Jamir Tillman is the Midshipmen’s best receiving threat. The 6-foot-4 wideout has 32 catches for 533 yards and two touchdowns.
Navy’s defense hasn’t been quite as elite as its offense. The Midshipmen have allowed 30 or more points in four of their last five games.
The Midshipmen are allowing 265 passing yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 313 yards and three touchdowns in their last three contests.
Storyline to watch: Can Temple find a way to stop the triple option?
The last time these two teams played was in 2014, when Navy ran for 487 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win against the Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Temple’s most recent matchup against the triple option was when it lost to Army in its season opener. The Black Knights ran for 329 yards and four touchdowns. With only a week to prepare, Temple will have to find a way to cure its option woes if it wants a chance to win Saturday.
What’s at stake?
The Owls have only won one other conference championship in program history, when they won the Mid-Atlantic Conference in 1967. A win would also give Temple its third 10-win season in program history. If Western Michigan loses Friday night, Temple also puts itself in contention for a spot in the Cotton Bowl with a win.
Temple has to figure out this option thing at some point, right? The Owls’ ability to convert on third down and sustain long drives will help slow Navy's offense. This one will most likely come down to who has the ball last, but the Owls are a little bit more well-rounded, so they get the edge. Temple 31, Navy 28
No. 9 Villanova (9-3, 6-2 CAA) at No. 7 South Dakota State (8-3, 7-1 MVFC)
Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, Brookings, S.D.
Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPN3
Villanova will look to extend legendary head coach Andy Talley’s career at least another week as the Wildcats travel to South Dakota for a second-round FCS playoff matchup.
Here’s a look at what’s on tap:
Led by a dominant defense and a balanced rushing attack, the Wildcats returned to the FCS playoffs for the sixth time in nine years, earning an at-large bid after finishing tied for second in the CAA behind James Madison. Villanova opened its playoff run with a 31-21 home victory over Saint Francis last week after building a 24-point halftime lead behind three first-half touchdown passes from Zach Bednarczyk, two of which went to junior tight end Ryan Bell. As usual, star defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon (more on him here) led the defense with a career-high 2½ of the team’s six total sacks. On the season, the Wildcats rank in the top eight in the FCS in six different defensive categories and have held the opposition to just 15.4 points per game — second in the country. On offense, Aaron Forbes, Matt Gudzak and Javon White have all been productive rushers while splitting carries in the backfield, along with the speedy Bednarczyk.
Scouting South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits won the final three games of the regular season to capture the Missouri Valley Conference title, earning an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs and a first-round bye as a No. 8 seed. Their biggest victory came back in October when they upset North Dakota State, the FBS giant-slayer that’s also won the last five FCS national championships. Led by standout sophomore quarterback Taryn Christion, South Dakota State averages 314.4 passing yards (eighth in the FCS) and is scoring 37.4 points per game (11th in the FCS). On the other side of the ball, the Jackrabbits have returned four interceptions for TDs and linebacker Christian Roseboom is a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award as the nation’s top freshman after amassing more than 100 tackles.
This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
Storyline to watch
The key to the game will likely boil down to which one of the talented dual-threat sophomore quarterbacks has the better game and how much Villanova’s dominant defense can slow down Christion, who has thrown for 3,369 yards with 29 touchdowns while also rushing for 385 yards and a team-high six TDs. The Jackrabbits quarterback has two very good targets who have both eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in junior wideout Jake Wieneke and junior tight end Dallas Goedert. Villanova will likely need Rob Rolle (seven interceptions) to make a big play against a team that’s only turned it over 12 times and for Kpassagnon to put heavy pressure on Christion.
What’s at stake?
The winner will almost certainly have a date with Carson Wentz’s alma mater in the third round as top-seeded North Dakota State hosts San Diego. If the Wildcats lose, it will mark the end of Talley’s career after 32 years at the helm and 12 playoff berths.
This is a brutally tough trip for the Wildcats but something says Talley has one more win in him before running into the North Dakota State juggernaut.
Villanova 28, South Dakota State 24