Marmot Boca Raton Bowl Overview
Match-up: Toledo (MAC) vs. Temple (AAC)
Spread: Temple (-1.5)
Location: FAU Football Stadium. Boca Raton, FL.
When: Tuesday, December 22nd at 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: ESPN
The Rockets were off to a blazing start in 2015 starting with a memorable win for the program at Arkansas to stun the SEC early in September. They then followed that up by beating a Big 12 opponent in Iowa State the following week, and then smoked a really good Arkansas State team 37-7. Overall, it was a great year for the Rockets, but many inside the program have a sour taste in their mouth by falling short against their tormentor, Northen Illinois at home. Even worse, they were upset in the season finale to Western Michigan, which ultimately sent Northern Illinois to the MAC Championship game. Offensively, the Rockets are explosive, as they were 29th in the nation in total offense averaging 463 yards per game. Led by Alabama transfer quarterback Phillip Ely, this offense has big-play capability.
Players to Watch
Phillip Ely (QB): The senior signal caller struggled with his accuracy this year, as he only completed 54 percent of his passes. Ely does have a big arm and has the ability to zip the ball into tight windows on occasion, so the talent is there. His decision making is still questionable, as his 10 interceptions reflected. But if Temple gives this guy time in the pocket to survey the field, he will make them pay.
Cody Thompson (WR): The big, physical sophomore is Phillip Ely’s favorite target and is the best deep threat on this team. Thompson, a former high school quarterback and star basketball player, is an exceptional athlete and is very good in picking up yards after the cage. The sophomore averaged over 21 yards per catch, which was tied for 5th in the country. He will be an impact player in this game, and someone Temple will have to roll the coverage towards.
How Toledo Can Win:
Quarterback Phillip Ely is going to have to play the best game of his collegiate career, as this stingy Temple defense led by All-American linebacker Tyler Matekevich will bring plenty of pressure his way. However, Temple’s secondary has struggled at times this season, so Ely and wideouts Thompson and Alonzo Russell could potentially pose problems for the Owls.
The Owls had a remarkable season in the American Athletic Conference, and had the best season in program history. Led by superstar head coach Matt Rhule, First Team All-American linebacker Tyler Matakevich, and running back Jahad Thomas, Temple took their football program to new heights this year. Although they fell short in the AAC title game at Houston, big wins over Penn State, Cincinnati, and Memphis along with taking 8th ranked Notre Dame to the wire made this team a legitimate top 25 program. Matt Rhule has done a phenomenal job to say the least, taking Temple from 2-10, to 6-6, and now to 10-3 in his first three seasons as head coach. More importantly, Rhule just signed a new 6-year extension, which was the icing on the cake for the Owls football program moving forward.
Players to Watch
P.J. Walker (QB): Walker had an exceptional junior year, throwing for more than 2,700 yards to go along with 19 touchdowns. In addition, just 7 interceptions were thrown from Walker this season, as he did a much better job taking care of the football compared to his first two years on North Broad Street. While Jahad Thomas is the best player on this offense, Walker is the engine that makes this offense go. Even though he hasn’t shown too much of it, Walker has the athleticism to beat teams with his legs as well, making him a true duel-threat quarterback that gives opposing defenses nightmares.
Tyler Matakevich (LB): The numbers speak for themselves. Matakevich recorded his fourth straight season of 100 or more tackles, making him the seventh player in the Football Subdivision history to accomplish that feat. The senior also had a remarkable 15 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, 5 pass breakups, and 4.5 sacks en route to winning the Nagurski and Bednarik awards, representing the top defensive player and defensive player of the year honors respectively. Matakevich is the heart and soul of this entire football team, and he most definitely will have a big impact on this Boca Raton bowl game.
How Temple Can Win
Being dominant defensively. The Owls were 18th in the country in total defense, allowing just 329 yards of offense per game and just 19 points per game. If they can run the ball effectively on offense with Jahad Thomas and consistently move the sticks, this defense will take it from there.
Final Score Prediction: Temple wins 27-17.
Christian Reilly- @CReillyTV