College Football Picks: Bet ECU -3 to Hand Temple First Loss

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 1:14 PM GMT

Temple's perennially downtrodden program is riding high into Thursday night game at East Carolina. The Pirates, however, are -3 on the college football odds with a total of 54.

Accolades Could Be Coming For Rhule
Certainly Temple's Matt Rhule has to be on any short list for National Coach of the Year honors; he's probably going to get some offers from Power 5 Conference schools with openings this offseason. You already hear his name linked with the Maryland job.

The Owls beat Central Florida 30-10 Saturday in American Athletic Conference action to match the school's best start ever of 6-0 (3-0 in the AAC). The Owls were also 6-0 in 1974, 1945 and 1935. In '74 they finished 8-2, '45 ended at 7-1, and '35 finished 7-3. A 10-2 record in 1979 remains Temple's most wins in a season. That's obviously in jeopardy. Temple is No. 22 in this week's Associated Press Top 25 and No. 24 in the Coaches' Poll. It's the first time since '79 the Owls are in the AP Top 25; Rhule was 4 years old then. The Coaches' Poll began in 1991 so it's Temple's first time in that one. The only time Temple finished  a season ranked in the AP Poll was in 1979, when the Owls closed the year by beating California in the Garden State Bowl and No. 17 in the AP Poll.

Against winless UCF, Temple trailed 16-14 entering the fourth quarter but took the lead on a Jahad Thomas 22-yard touchdown run with 14:03 left. Thomas put the game away on a 21-yard TD run with 4:54 left. Thomas set career highs in carries (31), rushing yards (199), rushing TDs (three) and total yards from scrimmage (224). The last time a Temple back reached those numbers was by Montel Harris on November 2012 against Army.

Temple's defense allowed 134 total yards to the Knights, 67 both rushing and passing. Over the last two games, the Temple defense has allowed just 75 combined rushing yards. The defense has allowed only one touchdown in the last three games on a total of 40 drives. Temple has one of the nation's best defensive players in linebacker Tyler Matakevich. He had eight tackles and an interception vs. UCF. He leads the FBS among active players with 407 career tackles. The senior is also be the only player in the FBS to lead his team in tackles in every game this season. Temple is No. 7 nationally in total defense, No. 8 against the rush (92.2 ypg) and No. 8 in scoring (14.7 ppg).

The Owls are 4-2 against the spread this season on college football odds and 3-3 'over/under.'

 

Pirates Use Two-QB System
East Carolina (4-3, 2-1) lost record-setting quarterback Shane Carden and the best receiver in school history, Justin Hardy, off last year's team that finished 8-5 and lost to Florida in the Birmingham Bowl. The Pirates have struggled to replace them as well as offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who took the same job with Oklahoma. Riley  is one of the up-and-coming offensive minds in college football and helped the Pirates finish fifth nationally in total offense in 2014.

ECU comes off a 30-17 win over Tulsa. That was the fewest points the East Carolina defense has allowed this season. The Golden Hurricane entered averaging 36.6 points and 568.0 yards per game. They were shut out for three quarters for the first time since Week 1 of the 2013 season. On Tulsa's opening series, it drove to the East Carolina 12 but Josh Hawkins picked off a pass by QB Dane Evans in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a score. Hawkins, who also had six tackles, was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Week.

The Pirates use two quarterbacks this season in Blake Kemp and James Summers. Kemp started his fifth game of the season vs. Tulsa and was 8-for-12 passing for 78 yards. He was relieved by Summers, who completed 11-for-16 for 127 yards with one TD and one pick. He also had his sixth rushing score of the season, rushing 12 times for 44 yards.

East Carolina has won 26 straight games when leading at the half. It has won 11 of its past 12 at home and 13 of its past 14 conference home games. It is 4-3 ATS on college football picks this season and 5-2 O/U.

Must Read: Early Week 8 Betting Lines Worth a Look.

Last Meeting
Temple beat visiting ECU, which was ranked No. 23 at the time, 20-10 on Nov. 1, 2014. It was an odd game in that East Carolina had 428 yards of offense and 30 first downs compared to just 135 and 10, respectively, for the Owls. But the Pirates also lost five fumbles -- Temple didn't turn the ball over -- and committed 12 penalties for 116 yards. The Owls' Matakevich had a whopping 16 solo tackles. It was Temple's first win over a ranked opponent since beating then-No. 14 Virginia Tech 28-24 on Oct. 17, 1998, in Blacksburg. Temple had been 0-34 against ranked teams since beating the Hokies. It was only the third win all-time over a ranked team. It was the first time ECU and Temple had played since 1995.

NCAAF Free Picks: Give the points and go 'under' the total. Temple is 2-5-1 ATS in its past eight Thursday games. ECU is 5-2 ATS in its past seven at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The 'under' is 4-0 in Temple's past four after an ATS loss.