College Football Predictions: Temple Owls at SMU Mustangs
Temple Owls at SMU Mustangs, Saturday October 19, 3:30 p.m. ET
It's not too often that we preview an AAC game here in this space. We pick the three most interesting games of the week, and it often doesn't come down to that league. But then it's not too often that we get two ranked teams in a ridiculously deep league showing down in a game that almost promises to be an instant classic.
These two squads have a combined 11 wins in 12 outings, but they are still stuck in big crowds. Temple is tied with Cincinnati atop the East, with UCF chasing close behind. SMU is tied in conference play with Tulane, with Navy and Memphis on the chase. We are only halfway through the regular season, and barely into AAC play, yet this feels like a must-win game - one between two talented teams with grand conference ambitions. And in the case of SMU, which is 6-0 for the first time since Eric Dickerson and Craig James were starring for the team, their ambitions surely extend beyond just the AAC. There is a mid-major New Year's bowl game berth that they surely want so bad they can taste it. And Temple will give it all here to make sure they don't get it.
Temple at SMU Betting Storylines
In 2017, Chad Morris left for Arkansas, leaving behind a SMU team that had gone 7-6, but which had a few issues looming. And last year Sonny Dykes had some struggles dealing with those looming issues, going 5-7. But in year two he has taken a major step forward. Massive. It is, frankly, the season we have been waiting for Dykes to have for many years. His star was on the rise when he went 8-5 and 9-3 in his second and third years, respectively, at Louisiana Tech. That landed him the gig at Cal, but he had too much of a cultural gap to cross, and in four years he never cracked the code. But given where the AAC is at these days, the move from Cal to SMU was much more lateral than it might seem on paper. He's dialed in, he has the players he needs, and it's working in a big way. They haven't played a particularly tough schedule, and their defense is struggling in a typical Dykes fashion. But they sure can score, and they have depth to work with. It hasn't always been pretty - they needed three overtimes to get past a very outmatched Tulsa team last week. But even there they found themselves down 30-9 early on but fought back to score 21 unanswered in the final quarter to earn that overtime chance, and then just kept fighting. I'll take a team that is bought in and willing to fight over one that is more talented but less committed any day.
Temple's story is a different one. They are riding a four-year bowl streak, and that success has led to the installation of a revolving door in the coach's office. Matt Rhule was in charge for the first two bowl games before heading to Baylor. Geoff Collins led for the next two years and then jumped to Georgia Tech. Manny Diaz got the job and wasn't in charge long enough to grow a five o'clock shadow before taking over at Miami. And then Rod Carey came over from Northern Illinois to run the show this year. Normally, that kind of turnover on top would wreak havoc for a team. It would catch up to the and they would fade. But they have beaten Maryland, beaten up on Georgia Tech and Collins, and last week they beat a very good Memphis team. If this game is half as good as that one was, then it will be must-see TV. Temple is more balanced than dominant, but they have a three-headed monster at receiver that a lot of teams would die for, and that really drives the danger level on offense when needed. They are one truly mind-bogglingly bad blowout loss away to Buffalo away from a perfect season. Oh, what a game this would be if they were. The biggest challenge for this team right now is probably the schedule. This is the second of five really tough games out of the next six. Their win last week was very emotional. Getting up for this game again, while avoiding looking ahead to what is still to come, is a tall ask.
Temple at SMU Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with SMU favored by as few as six points, but that has jumped up to 7.5 so far. A small majority of bets have been placed on Temple, which suggests that sharp money has been hitting SMU to force this movement through a key number. The total opened at 59 and has leapt up very slightly to 59.5.
The Owls are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 road games and a solid 36-14-1 ATS in their last 51 games in October. They are 41-20 ATS in their last 61 games overall. The Mustangs are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall but just 2-5 ATS in their last seven October games and 1-4 ATS in their last five conference games.
Temple at SMU Predictions and Picks
I liked the number a whole lot better when it was below a touchdown, but I still like SMU solidly in this one. I'm concerned about the bounce back from that tough game for Temple last week, and I have more respect for SMU's offense. I actually give Temple the slight coaching edge, but not enough to change an opinion here. SMU is the play.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Get all of this Weeks College Football Picks
Get all of this Weeks guaranteed Expert College Football Picks