Thursday, December 27, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
Free NCAAF Pick: Owls ATS
Best Line Offered: Pinnacle
Interim coach Ed Foley will lead Temple after Geoff Collins departed for Georgia Tech. Foley was also the interim coach in the Military Bowl in 2016. In that game, Temple lost to Wake Forest as a 10-point favorite. This game will be different, though, because Temple gets to keep both its offensive and defensive coordinators. Duke will try to end its season on a positive note. Long-time coach David Cutcliffe is 2-3 SU in bowl games at Duke and has covered four of them in a row.
How They Got Here
Duke dominated the beginning of its season, was up-and-down in conference play, and concluded the season in atrocious fashion. Part of its disappointing finish derives from the injury of star linebacker Joe Giles-Harris. He missed the final three games in which Duke surrendered 35 points to North Carolina, 35 to Clemson, and 59 to Wake Forest, only barely covering against Clemson. Conversely, Temple started its season horribly and finished strong, winning its last three games by double-digits. It has covered three in a row when favored by a touchdown or less.
Why Duke Can Win/Cover
A head coach with a proven history in bowl games will lead Duke. The coaching mismatch is most evident when Duke plays teams not so familiar with Cutcliffe because they don’t play in the ACC. Since 2017, Duke is 7-0 ATS against FBS non-conference opponents.
Why Temple Can Win/Cover
Duke’s running defense is a mess. It ranks 117th in allowing 5.2 yards per carry. In three games without Giles-Harris, opponents are averaging 6.6 YPC. He is listed as “questionable.” In its past five games – which includes two where Giles-Harris played – the Blue Devils allowed between 208 and 484 rushing yards. Whether Giles-Harris plays or not, Temple running back Ryquell Armstead will be fit to play. He has accrued 1,098 rushing yards on 5.2 YPC.
Common Opponents/Series History
The Owls lost 45-35 against Boston College, which plays with Duke in the ACC. Boston College superstar running back A.J. Dillon ran all over Temple, outpacing Armstead, who ran for 171 yards and four touchdowns against a Boston College run defense that ranks 33rd in opposing YPC. Temple was also hurt by two interceptions from its quarterback. Duke did not play BC this season.
The Blue Devils did well in their non-conference schedule because they benefited from propitious matchups – they played a Northwestern team that is notoriously bad in September, a non-existent Baylor defense, and Army. Army runs the option and Cutcliffe typically prepares his team well against option attacks. Temple can make fullest use of its offensive strength against the Blue Devils’ porous run defense. Conversely, Duke’s defense won’t exploit Temple’s weakness on offense. While Temple quarterback Anthony Russo is interception-prone, Duke hasn’t picked off a pass since September 15. It ranks 128th in interceptions per game.
Temple’s run defense is strong. It ranks 51st in opposing YPC and thrives especially against opposing running backs. Although Houston quarterback D’Eriq King ran all over Temple’s defense and Duke quarterback Daniel Jones is mobile, King is much more of a threat with his legs. He has three 100+-yard running games and a much better 40-yard dash time than Jones. Temple did a great job containing mobile quarterbacks such as UCF’s McKenzie Milton and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder who aren’t threats with their legs to the degree that King is. The Owls also struggled against rush attacks led by superior offensive lines such as UCF’s. But Duke’s ranks 89th in opportunity rate, which measures the amount of times where the O-line did its job and allowed the running back to gain at least four yards.
Temple can keep Duke one-dimensional on offense, which is important because Duke is 1-6 ATS when Jones throws 30+ passes. Jones and his statistically lackluster receiving crew will face Temple’s first-ranked secondary in terms of opposing passer rating. On offense, Temple will run all over Duke. Back the Owls in your NCAAF picks.