Rant Sports College Football Top 100: No. 94 Temple Owls

Howard Smith – USA TODAY Sports

Continuing the Rant Sports 100 in 100 series, we head to the Big East to check in on the Temple Owls. New head coach Matt Rhule takes over after Steve Addazio bolted for the Boston College Eagles job, leaving a roster that will need to be turned over before Rhule’s philosophies can take root. After a 4-7 2012 campaign, the Owls have plenty of work to do.

In 2013, the Owls will have to find a way to finish strong as they learn new offensive and defensive systems. Temple fell apart down the stretch last season, losing five of their final six games and tumbling to the bottom of the Big East standings. Checking in at No. 94 on our countdown, will the Temple Owls get things turned around next season?

Offense

The story of Temple’s offense in 2013 will be the transition of their quarterbacks. Rhule is switching things up, changing the Temple offense to a pro-style rather than Addazio’s run-heavy quarterback-read style of offense that the Owls’ ran last season. That has prompted serious change, particularly at the quarterback position.

Last year’s starter, Chris Coyer, has moved to H-back, third string quarterback Kevin Newsome will be a running back and fourth-string quarterback in 2012, Connor Reilly, is in position to take over the No. 1 quarterback job next fall. Reilly has the drop-back ability that Rhule is looking for and Coyer and Newsome have the athleticism to contribute at new positions. How well they acclimate to their new roles will be a major factor for Temple’s success.

The move to a pro-style offense will also put pressure on the Temple receiving corps to step up after wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick finished as the only Temple receiver to record more than 20 catches last season. He figures to be a major part of the offense in 2013, along with tight end Cody Booth, whose four touchdown receptions constituted 40 percent of the team’s total receiving touchdowns.

Defense

While the Temple offense finds their footing, Rhule will likely have to lean on the Owls’ defense to keep them in games early in the season. The bad news is that the defense ranked No. 88 in the country in scoring defense a year ago. The good news: Temple has one of the best linebacker duos in the conference to try and turn things around.

Tyler Matakevich and Nate Smith emerged as the defensive leaders for Temple during their freshman seasons last year. They finished No. 1 and No. 2 in tackles, led by Matakevich’s 101 tackles, and Smith recorded a team-high 6.5 tackles for loss while adding 3.5 sacks (second most on the team). With another year of experience under their belt, they’ll be ready to break out as one of the Big East’s best defensive duos.

They will need to be at their best early as Temple will be forced to replace some key experience along the defensive line. Hersey Walton will be looking to build off his own strong freshman campaign and improve on his 35 tackles from a year ago in the interior of the line.

Schedule

The road starts out tough for Temple as they open the season in South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who will be looking to begin their road back to a BCS bowl with a statement win. The schedule evens back out after that with some very winnable non-conference games against the Fordham Rams and Idaho Vandals before getting into the heart of their conference schedule.

They are fortunate to get the Lousiville Cardinals at home, though Charlie Strong’s team looks to be too much for Temple no matter where they play, but must go on the road for the Big East’s other main contenders. They travel to face the Cincinnati Bearcats the week after their Louisville game to kick off a stretch of three road trips in four games, capped by a trip to face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Matt Rhule has made his return to Temple, but he has found quite the project waiting for him. The Owls will have their work cut out for them if they hope to improve on last year’s effort.

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