The Mids host the American Athletic Conference Title Game on Saturday against Temple.Navy gets the chance to win its first-ever conference championship this weekend when the Mids host Temple in Annapolis. Navy has been on a roll of late on its way to the AAC West crown and now gets a matchup against the Owls as they beat UCF (with a head to head win) to take the AAC East. A Navy win would also likely create bowl chaos (with a game still to come against Army), something that just might be fun to see happen.
Season so far
The Owls enter this game with Navy sitting in first place in the AAC East with a 9-3 (7-1) record after 12 games.
Obviously, the Owls have had a big season or they would not be in a position to have won the AAC East and be playing Navy for the conference title. The season though did not start out particularly well as, despite a heap of preseason hype, Temple laid an egg in its first game with a 28-13 loss at home to Army. This was followed up by a comfortable win over Stony Brook (FCS), before a seven-point loss on the road to a Penn State team that was far better than most expected in 2016. Temple closed out the non-conference section of its schedule with a run of the mill 48-20 win over Charlotte.
The Owls indifferent form to start the year carried over into its first couple of games of the AAC schedule. Temple began with a comfortable (45-20) win over SMU, before dropping a game on the road at Memphis by the same 34-27 scoreline they had earlier lost to Penn State. The game against the Tigers was a Thursday night affair and after it finished the Owls stood at 3-3 (1-1) on the season and thoughts turned to scraping enough wins together to just make a bowl game.
That is when the Owls caught fire, starting with a one-point (26-25) victory over UCF that would prove to be crucial when the regular season reached its climax. Temple then went on a tear, winning its next five games and getting better each week, especially on defense. The Owls closed out AAC play with emphatic victories against UConn (21-0), Tulane (31-0), and East Carolina (37-10). The victory over UCF that seemed so insignificant at the time was the tiebreaker that sees Temple in this championship game.
Injuries and Suspensions
By far the biggest injury news this week for Temple is the status of starting quarterback Phillip Walker. Temple head coach Matt Rhule stated on Tuesday that if the game was on that day then Walker would have had to sit. Walker injured his foot in the game against ECU that clinched the conference title shot for the Owls and the quarterback has declared that he “will be ready to go” by the time the game kicks off. Over the last three years, Walker has accounted for 97.3 percent of Temple passes and Navy would do well to pressure Waker and see how healthy he really is if he plays.
The other two players questionable for the game against Navy are WR Ventrell Bryant (shoulder) and DB Nate Smith (leg). Bryant is the Owls leading receiver on the season with almost 700 yards on 38 catches, while Smith is a major contributor on defense that fills in at safety and as the nickel defensive back. Both would be big misses for the Owls if they cannot go come game time.
The biggest challenge to Navy is going to be scoring against a Temple defense that is ranked tenth in the country in points allowed per game. Navy has been stunningly hot on offense over its last few games (66 points against ECU, 75 points against SMU), but Temple may just be good enough on defense to slow do the Navy machine. The Mids will have to be patient in this one and if it develops into a field position game then the Mids offense has to keep grinding out yardage until the points start to come. Both sides want to control the ball and Temple ranks fifth in the country in time of possession, so whoever is able to impose their will on the game in the fourth quarter will come away with the AAC Championship.