The Temple Owls are set to take over the World Wide Leader Saturday afternoon with games on both ESPN and ESPN 2. You'll find the football team on the flagship at 2 p.m ET.
Temple's matchup with Wyoming is the Owls' second bowl appearance in the last three seasons, but only their third in the last thirty-two. Having lost the 2009 EagleBank Bowl to UCLA, the program has not claimed a postseason victory since 1979.
Fortunately for their hopes of making history, they've drawn a very favorable opponent in the Cowboys.
[breaking down the Gildan New Mexico Bowl after the jump]
The Temple Rushing Attack vs. The Wyoming Defense
As Temple fans were delighted to find out upon learning the identity of their bowl opponent, Wyoming is absolutely dreadful against the run. Of all 120 FBS schools, the Cowboys finished the 2011 season 114th in rush yards allowed, surrendering an average of 230.1 yards per game.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Owls' offense finished seventh in the nation on the ground with an average of 256.7 yards per game. This is the kind of discrepancy you're just aching to find if you're filling out a 35-game bowl pick 'em (believe me, I did one yesterday).
For reference, when Wyoming met Utah State—the sixth best team in the country on the run, and only one spot ahead of Temple in that category—earlier this year, they were burned for a total of 308 rush yards. Pressing the point further, that game was only one of four occasions in which Wyoming yielded more than 300 rush yards this season.
Temple coach Steve Addazio has asserted over and over that his team prides itself on tough defense and an ability to run the football. Should they succeed on both those fronts against Wyoming, it stands to reason that they'll be leaving New Mexico a very happy football team.
Bernard Pierce's Last Game as an Owl?
Temple tailback Bernard Pierce could catapult himself up the draft charts with the a big performance in what could be his last college game.
Pierce has already submitted the perfunctory paperwork to begin the process of potentially leaving school for the professional ranks, though we understand this is a fairly common move for upper classmen and doesn't figure to shed any real light on his future intentions.
Still, its tough to think this won't be the last time Temple fans see Bernard play in an Owl uniform. After a history making junior season in which he claimed the schools all-time records for touchdowns in a game (5), season (25) and career (52), Pierce seems destined for the NFL. Factoring in his injury history and a possible hesitation to come back for his senior year out of fear for depreciating his draft stock, it stands to reason that the next time you see Bernard at Lincoln Financial Field, he'll playing on a Sunday.
The Temple Defense vs. the Wyoming Offense
Switching sides of the ball, the Cowboy attack isn't going to make life easy on the Owls' D. Posting the fourth-best turnover margin and eleventh fewest sacks allowed in the country, Wyoming won't be making many mistakes of its own.
Look for the Temple defense to hopefully benefit from extended rests provided by the offense's success on the ground. In the event Temple is able to control the clock and keep its Wyoming counterparts off the field, then the defense should be fresh to both shut down the Cowboys' offense, and take some runs at Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith.
As a matter of almost completely inconsequential note, Smith's backup is one Colby Kirkegaard. I just want to get one look at that kid for the sole purpose of a making a "Soren's kid" joke a la the Eagles' own Mike Kafka.
Wyoming Somewhat at Home in Albuquerque?
Saturday will be Wyoming's second trip to the New Mexico Bowl in the last three seasons. In their last appearance in 2009, the Cowboys defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs 35-28 in double-overtime.
It never hurts to have a bit of familiarity with a given location, especially considering the struggles for most college programs with any and all forms of travel.
Just Where in the Hell is Temple Anyway?
Good question. I was amused to see Keith Pompey's Friday report in which Wyoming LB Brian Hendricks confessed to not knowing where Temple was. I often wonder when the Owls play a game on national television if individuals in other parts of the country have any idea where the school is actually located. I now know that their cultural cache does not extend to our nation's northwest. Funny story.
In the two team's only meeting, Wyoming downed Temple 38-23 in September of 1990. Not sure that outcome has a whole lot of import here.
We've been working off and on with musical themes all season. Though the choice of this track off the 1999 Running with Scissors album felt a bit obvious (I always sound like Patrick Bateman when I re-read these sections), I succumbed to the realization that I might never again have the opportunity to pair this particular song with another sporting event.
Whatever tomorrow's outcome, thanks for following along this season. I hope to keep plenty of you around for our ongoing basketball coverage.
"So, whaddaya say, Al (aheheh), shall we press on?"