College Football AAC Championship Game: #22 Temple Owls at #19 Houston Cougars

2015 American Athletic Conference Championship Game
#22 Temple Owls at #19 Houston Cougars
TDECU Stadium – Houston, Texas
Saturday, December 5, 2015, 12:00 pm Eastern, TV: ABC
Opening Line: Houston -6 1/2
Current Line: Houston -5 1/2
Opening Total: 57
Current Total: 54 1/2
Opening Money Line: Houston -250 / Temple +210
Current Money Line: Houston -225 / Temple +185

Houston is a touchdown favorite against Temple in the AAC Championship game.
Houston is a touchdown favorite against Temple in the AAC Championship game.

The 11-1 Houston Cougars and 10-2 Temple Owls meet in the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship Game Saturday in Houston. Not only is the conference title on the line but the winner will also likely clinch a berth in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.

Temple won the East Division with a 7-1 record and Houston won the West with a 7-1 record as well. Temple is looking for their second ever conference title and first since 1967. Houston has six conference titles, including the last in 2006 when they were in Conference USA. Houston has won all four meetings against Temple including 31-10 last year in Houston.

Temple is coached by Matt Rhule. The Owls have a home loss to Notre Dame 24-20 and a road loss to South Florida 44-23. Temple has home wins over Penn State 27-10, Tulane 49-10, Central Florida 30-16, Memphis 31-12 and Connecticut 27-3 last week. The Owls also have road wins over Cincinnati 34-26, Massachusetts 25-23, Charlotte 37-3, East Carolina 24-14, and SMU 60-40.

Temple was a 13.5 point favorite against Connecticut and the total was 38. Temple scored the first 27 points of the game before Connecticut kicked a late field goal to avoid the shutout. The Huskies had only 138 total yards and 2 turnovers. Temple is 9-3 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season.

Houston is coached by Tom Herman. The only loss for the Cougars came at Connecticut 20-17. Houston has home wins over Tennessee Tech 52-24, Texas State 59-14, SMU 49-28, Vanderbilt 34-0, Cincinnati 33-30, Memphis 35-34 and Navy 52-31 last week. The Cougars have road wins at Louisville 34-31, Tulsa 38-24, Tulane 42-7, and Central Florida 59-10.

Houston was a 1 point underdog against Navy last Friday and the total was 59. Both teams could have clinched the West Division with a win. Houston would take a 24-14 lead into halftime. The Cougars would cruise to a 52-31 win. Houston had 555 total yards to 459 for Navy. Houston is 7-5 ATS and the total is 5-6-1 this season.

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Temple is outscoring teams 32-19 this season. The Owls are #16 in points allowed nationally. Temple averages 368 total yards per game including 210 passing and 158 rushing. The Owls are #81 or worse in all three categories. On defense, Temple is allowing 328 total yards including 211 passing and 117 rushing yards. The Owls are #17 in total defense and #11 in rush defense. Temple has 22 takeaways and 16 giveaways. The Owls average 61 penalty yards per game and opponents average 73 per game. Temple is 86/200 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 62/194. The Owls have forced 32 sacks and allowed 15 this season. Temple is 49/56 scoring in the red zone with 34 touchdowns and opponents are 29/38 with 15 touchdowns. The Owls have four defensive/special teams touchdowns this season.

Temple quarterback P.J. Walker has completed 56.8% of his passes for 2,450 yards with 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, along with 66 carries for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Running back Jahad Thompson has 249 carries for 1,188 yards with 17 touchdowns, along with 21 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown. Jager Gardner has 32 carries for 184 yards and a touchdown. Ryquell Armstead has 43 carries for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 2 catches. David Hood has 40 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown, plus 4 catches and a touchdown.

Receiver Robby Anderson has 52 catches for 723 yards and 6 touchdowns. Ventell Bryant has 36 catches for 503 yards and 3 touchdowns. John Christopher has 19 catches for 205 yards. He is questionable for undisclosed reasons. Brandon Shippen, Kip Patton, Adonis Jennings and Romond Deloatch will also get some catches. Jennings and Deloatch have combined for five touchdown catches. Tight end Colin Thompson is questionable for undisclosed reasons.

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Houston is outscoring teams 42-21 this season. The Cougars are #8 in scoring and #22 in points allowed nationally. Houston averages 500 yards per game on offense including 259 passing yards and 241 rushing yards. The Cougars are #36 in passing nationally and in the top 15 in total and rush defense. On defense, Houston is allowing 381 total yards including 264 passing and 118 rushing yards. The Cougars are #12 in rush defense but #108 out of 128 teams in pass defense. Houston has forced 28 turnovers and has 13 of their own. The Cougars average 57 penalty yards and opponents average 59 per game. Houston is 110/218 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 75/194. The Cougars have forced 32 sacks and allowed 26 this season. Houston is 51/59 scoring in the red zone with 42 touchdowns and opponents are 28/31 with 22 touchdowns. The Cougars have seven defensive/special teams touchdowns.

Quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. has completed 69.3% of his passes for 2,502 yards with 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, along with 161 carries for 893 yards and 17 touchdowns. He returned from an ankle injury against Navy, after missing most of the previous two games. Kyle Postma has thrown for 450 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception, and also has 24 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown. Postma also has six catches and a receiving touchdown. He is questionable with a knee injury. Another quarterback Adam Schulz took some snaps early in the season but is out for the season with a knee injury.

Running back Kenneth Farrow has 182 carries for 949 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 10 catches for 119 yards. He is questionable with a foot injury. Ryan Jackson has 68 carries for 353 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 7 catches for 79 yards. He is out for the season with a broken collarbone. Javin Webb has 60 carries for 256 yards with 3 touchdowns, along with 4 catches.

Receiver Demarcus Ayers has 89 catches for 1,140 yards and 6 touchdowns, plus 19 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown. Chance Allen has 49 catches for 658 yards and 4 touchdowns. Steven Dunbar has 26 catches for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. Linell Bonner has 24 catches for 306 yards and 5 touchdowns. Four offensive linemen are questionable or out.

Temple is 7-1 ATS after allowing less than 20 points, 5-1 against teams with winning records and overall, 4-1 in AAC, 19-7 after allowing less than 275 total yards, 8-3 on turf, 5-2 after a straight up win, in road games and after passing for less than 170 yards, 39-16-1 after allowing less than 170 passing yards, 35-16-1 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards, and 2-5 after win by 20 points or more.

Houston is 5-0 ATS after scoring more than 40 points, 7-1 after allowing more than 450 total yards, 11-2 after allowing more than 280 passing yards, 11-3 after passing for 280 yards or more, 6-2 after rushing for 200 yards or more, 18-7-1 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, 23-9-1 after a cover, 5-2-1 against teams with winning records, 25-11-1 after a straight up win, 7-17 on turf, 1-5-1 after gaining more than 450 total yards, and 0-3-1 in December.

If these two teams were completely healthy, I think Houston would win easily. They still might, but Temple has a strong defense. Houston is so banged up at running back and on the offensive line. The Cougars can be beat through the air, but Temple is more of a running team. I like the Cougars to win a close low scoring game.

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