SQ Marmot Boca Raton Bowl Preview
It may be the week of Christmas, but it sure won't feel like it when Toledo and Temple face off in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl today. Both teams are coming off impressive seasons and this will undoubtedly make for one of the more interesting bowl matchups this season. Before the game kicks off today, here are the things you need to know:
Storylines Heading Into the Game
Late Season Disappointment: No matter which way you look at it, both teams might've had great seasons, but it doesn't take away the late sting that each team felt. Temple started off hot, going 8-1, but a three-score defeat at the hands of South Florida and falling to Houston in the American Athletic Conference Championship ultimately crushed the hopes of the Owls.
Conversely, Toledo got off to a similar start with an impressive victory over Arkansas, but fell off late with losses to Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. However, it was the loss to Western Michigan that really hurt the Rockets as it cost the team a shot at playing for the MAC Championship.
A Big Win for Either School: After such disappointing ends to both of their seasons, the Boca Raton Bowl still offers each team a chance for a big win. For Toledo, a win here would push their win total up to 10, which would be the first time the team has notched a double digit victory total since 2001. Temple, on the other hand, would set a school record with their 11th win of the season if they can manage to defeat the Rockets. And while a win here may not seem like it means much, it could be the spark that gets the ball rolling for a successful 2016 campaign.
Another MAC Coach Heads to the Power-Five: It shouldn't come as a surprise that another successful MAC coach is heading to a Power-Five program; Dino Babers (Bowling Green) will become the head man at Syracuse, while Dave Clawson (Bowling Green) and Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois) have already started their tenure at a pair of ACC schools.
Now former Toledo head coach Matt Campbell will join the ranks as the latest head coach at Iowa State, taking multiple assistants with him. In his place, the Rockets have hired offensive coordinator Jason Candle, which should provide continuity within the program.
83.64% - The percentage that Toledo scored when it reached the redzone this season. It's a stat that ranks 72nd in the nation, and could be vital in this game. Temple has one of the most formidable defenses in college football, so Toledo will have to capitalize on all of its chances when it gets inside the 20.
481 - The amount of tackles that Temple LB Tyler Matakevich has amassed over his now storied career. Matakevich, still one of the lesser-known defenders in the game, is now the active career leader in tackles. He also became the seventh player in FBS history to register at least 100 tackles in each of his four seasons. Needless to say, Toledo RB Kareem Hunt and QB Phillip Ely better keep an eye out for this tackling machine.
91 - The amount of tackles for loss that Temple has surrendered this season. Temple doesn't have a high-powered offense like Toledo does, so it's extremely important to keep the Rockets out of the backfield. The Rockets average seven tackles for loss per game which was the top mark in the MAC, and a pair of their defensive linemen (Orion Jones and Allen Covington) that have combined for 22.5 this season. For the Owls to have any success on offense in this game, they'll have to limit the negative plays on the field.
Jahad Thomas, RB, Temple - Thomas is the feature back for Temple, and he will be one of the most dynamic runners (1,257 yards, 17 touchdowns) that Toledo has seen all year. The Rockets may be one of the best in the nation at defending the run (115.55 rush yards allowed per game), but Thomas won't be slowed down that easy. He's got plenty of speed to get past defenders, and he can also be receiving threat out of the backfield (22 receptions, 216 yards), making him one of the most versatile weapons on offense. If the offensive line can open up some holes for him, he should have a productive day and be the key to the Owls' offense.
Phillip Ely, QB, Toledo - Ely, a transfer from Alabama, has come in and done a pretty good job as the starting QB for the Rockets. However, Ely has struggled to be consistent at times this season. In four of the team's 11 games this season he failed to complete at least 50% of his passes, including both losses.
Temple has one of the better pass rushes in the game, accounting for 32 sacks and 101 tackles for loss, so Ely is going to have to be on his toes in this game. And while the Rockets will rely heavily on RBs Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson, when the team faces passing downs, Ely needs to be on his game. The Rockets can't afford an inconsistent performance against one of the better defenses in the nation.
Why Temple Wins
The offense may not be anything special, but the defense certainly is. With Matakevich leading this unit, the Owls are difficult to move the ball against. Toledo is a team that likes to use explosive runs to set the tone on offense, but that won't work against the Owls who only allow 3.7 yards per carry. It's simple, if Temple can stick to the formula it's used all year (play unbeatable defense and muster enough offense) then they're going to beat Toledo.
Why Toledo Wins
Toledo wins this game because it has something that Temple does not; an explosive offense. The Rockets paced the MAC in rushing yards per game (213.18), thanks to Hunt and Swanson who combined for 1,764 yards and 17 touchdowns. And what gives these backs the edge in this game is the outstanding help they get from the offensive line. The big boys up front have only allowed just 38 tackles for loss (1st in the nation) and just four sacks (2nd in the nation). With the offensive line playing like that, it's no wonder this offense can score 35 points per game.
This game is going to be fought hard between the trenches with each team trying to get their offenses rolling with a strong ground game. Temple will use the familiar combo of Thomas and QB P.J. Walker to put together enough productive drives, while Toledo is going to rely on its two-headed rushing attack. But, expect to see plenty of plays where Matakevich's name is called, bringing down either Hunt or Swanson.
The edge here goes to Temple simply because its defense is something that Toledo hasn't seen this season. Although Toledo may have one of the better offensive lines in the nation, Temple's front seven will still be able to stop Toledo short of the first down marker enough times to make an impact.
Final Score: Temple 27 - Toledo 24