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The American Athletic Conference will get some face time on national TV on Friday night when the Houston Cougars host the Temple Owls on ESPN2. Things certainly haven’t gone the way that the Cougars and head coach Tony Levine expected and they’ll need to be focused to avoid a major home upset at the hands of the upstart Owls, who have already doubled their win total from 2013. In fact, Temple is on a three-game winning streak, which is more games than they won in 2013.

Temple vs. Houston College Football Preview

Date/Time: Friday October 17, 8:00 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN2

College Football Betting Odds from WagerWeb

College Football Betting Favorite: Houston -8

Total: 50

The Temple Owls covered in seven of their last eight games last season and are 3-2 ATS this season. Overall, Matt Rhule is 11-6 against the number, despite a 6-11 straight up mark. Tony Levine is 16-15 straight up and 18-13 ATS with a 3-3 record this season. The Owls are 7-3 in AAC conference play. Five of Houston’s six games have stayed under the total, while Temple has played three unders in five games.

Temple Owls:

Bettors jumped on board the Temple train last year once Matt Rhule tabbed PJ Walker as the starting quarterback. The Owls only managed two wins, including a 20-point win over Memphis to end the season, but it was clear that the offense was moving in the right direction. Temple averaged 15.8 points per game over their first five contests, but 31.4 points per game over their last seven. The Owls haven’t played a tough schedule this season, but the average score in their games is 38-14. There are a few interesting things about Temple. For one thing, they’ve only run 347 offensive plays, which is a pretty slow pace for college football. Another thing is that they have scored 38 points per game on just 373 yards of offense per game. That could signal some regression coming and a schedule comprised of Delaware State, Navy, Vanderbilt, UConn, and Tulsa isn’t exactly a Murderer’s Row of opponents.

Houston Cougars:

John O’Korn was benched in favor of Greg Ward, Jr., and that gave the Houston offense a different dimension. The Cougars still managed only 354 yards against Memphis, but Ward Jr. had 17 carries for 95 yards and that mobility is what the Cougars need from the quarterback position right now. O’Korn was making bad throws and getting pressured. While the offense struggles, the defense has still been tremendous under second-year defensive coordinator David Gibbs. With a +25 turnover margin last season, it was assumed that the defense would fall off, but that hasn’t been the case. Unfortunately, two key injuries to defensive back Lee Hightower and linebacker Derrick Matthews have left the Cougars shorthanded for this game. The Cougars only allowed 16 points per game in conference last season and have allowed 41 points in their two conference games this season.

Free Pick: Temple +8

Houston doesn’t deserve to be laying this kind of a number against a much improved Temple team. Walker will make enough plays to at least keep this team close. Grab the points and the Owls here.

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