Temple vs. Duke
Walk On’s Independence Bowl
Time: Thursday, 12:30 PM CT, ESPN
Spread: TEM -3
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Duke Blue Devils finished the regular season 7-5 and drew Temple in its Bowl Game, the Walk On Independence Bowl. Duke will be 3-point underdogs as it faces the Owls at 12:30 PM (CT) Thursday afternoon on ESPN. The over/under is set at 54 points according to NCAA football oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Unlike in previous seasons, Duke’s defense was not what held it back this season. The Blue Devils held its opponents to just 27.4 points per game, but its typically volatile offense took steps backward in averaging just 33 points per contest (No. 250 in the nation). Even so, that defense allowed Duke to finish with a positive-5.6 point differential, as the Devils finished 6th in the ACC Coastal Division after mustering just a 3-5 record in conference play.
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones had his struggles with accuracy this season. The junior quarterback posted a strong passer rating of 124.8, but he had just 59 percent thrown for completion and averaged just 6.41 yards per attempt. More problematic still were his 25 sacks he incurred, and the seven interceptions he threw (although, Jones did throw 17 touchdown passes). He had over 400 fewer yards than his sophomore season and nearly 600 yards less than his outstanding freshman campaign in 2016.
Jones struggled badly in a season-ending loss to Wake Forest, as he completed just 17 of 36 passes while throwing an interception. He has not been above 60 percent passing since Oct 27 when the Devils lost 45-54 to Pittsburgh.
Moreover, Jones mostly struggled to rush the ball outside of one strong 186-yard standout performance against the North Carolina Tar Heels. It stands to reason that the 6’5” quarterback will return to Duke for a senior season, as it is tough to imagine him having much draft value following this struggle of a campaign.
While Duke had its issues with pass offense, its backfield was relatively strong. Deon Jackson led the Blue Devils with 806 yards and seven rushing TDs, while Brittain Brown added another 350 yards and two touchdowns. Jones averaged 3.3 yards-per-carry on the season and finished No. 3 in rushing yardage with 325 total rushing yards. Duke boasted six receivers with 200 or more yards on the season, led by TJ Rahming’s 571 yards and six touchdowns. Duke scored 26 touchdowns via the pass this season while managing 16 via the rush.
Duke kicker Collin Warhead finished 9 of 13 on field goals, with all but one of his misses coming from 40-plus. He was 41 of 43 on PATs. But his long field goal on the season was a mere 35-yards, so he lacks range, to say the least. It means Duke has to push for the end zone even more than usual, given his limitations as a kicker.
The Temple Owls finished the regular season 8-4 but it had a second-place finish in the AAC with its 7-1 mark in conference play. Temple finished just one game behind the undefeated UCF Knights, who have become something of a bane to the Owls in the AAC as two-time undefeated champions of the Conference.
Temple quarterback Anthony Russo was decent but certainly had his struggles in 2018. He completed just 57 percent of his passes and threw as many INTs (13) as touchdowns (13). Russo did incur just 11 sacks on the season, though, and has a better passer rating than Jones at 129.1.
Running back Ryquell Armstead turned in an outstanding season, though. He amassed 1,098 yards at a 5.2 yard-per-carry average while scoring 13 of Temple’s 26 rushing touchdowns. His 210 carries were over three times as many as fullback Rob Ritrovato, who did still average 4.2 yards-per-carry on the season.
Temple’s top two receivers combined for over 1,200 yards, with Ventell Bryant and Branden Mack combining as the top-two options. Temple also had seven other players with 100 or more receiving yards on the season.
The Owls were very strong defensively this season in holding opponents to just 24.7 points per game. It held UConn to just seven points in its season finale, and it limited the South Florida Bulls to 17 points as the Owls close its season on a three-game win streak. It will be favored by a field goal in this meeting with Duke, as the teams collide as quite evenly matched foes.
Temple’s last loss came to then-No. 12 UCF, and it defeated its only other ranked opponent this season (then-No. 20 Cincinnati).