A familiar story line will unfold Tuesday night in Philadelphia: Ohio and Temple will play with a spot in the MAC title game on the line.
The two teams are in a three-way tie atop the East with Miami (Ohio). But if either the Owls (8-2, 5-1) or the Bobcats (7-3, 5-1) win out, then they get a spot in the league championship game, most likely against Northern Illinois.
Last season, the two teams also met in the second-to-last game of the season. Temple came in with a nine-game winning streak and unbeaten record in league play. But Ohio won 35-17 as the Owls struggled in the passing game. Chester Stewart and Vaughn Charlton completed a combined 11 passes and threw three interceptions.
The Bobcats later lost to Central Michigan in the MAC title game.
“We would have all liked to have left the film there,” Temple coach Al Golden said of going back and watching last season’s game. “They played better than we did. They were the tougher team. We’ve learned a lot about our team. We’ve learned a lot throughout the course of this year, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t learn from last year. It should be a great matchup. That’s what we’re in the business for -- to be in meaningful games in November.”
The big question is what will happen at quarterback for Ohio. Starter Boo Jackson has played well lately, but he sustained a concussion in a fight outside a bar and hasn’t been involved in practice. Coach Frank Solich said Monday that Jackson was doubtful to play.
Phil Bates, who has split time with Jackson this season, took reps this week in practice but he’s been hobbled with a shoulder injury. Freshman Kyle Snyder has also gotten reps, but Ohio hopes to hold him out because it wants to redshirt him.
“(Bates is) not 100 percent, but been playing on and off at not 100 percent, so we’ll just wait and see,” Solich said. “He’s practiced well and felt good during practice. We think he’ll be able to start the game and hopefully be able to hold up.”
Bates presents a different style than Jackson. He is more of a runner than a passer, and leads the team with 423 yards on the ground.
As for Temple, the Owls have gotten a huge lift since Mike Gerardi replaced Stewart in the starting lineup. In three starts, Gerardi has gone 54-of-81 for 871 yards and eight touchdowns. But there has been shuffling along the offensive line, and Golden wants to make sure his team is just as physical as Ohio.
“They’ve been more explosive than we have been on offense,” Golden said. “That’s the challenge. They really put it to us a year ago in terms of the offensive side of things and didn’t allow any big plays. Frank has always had a physical team, has always had a rugged team and that’s what they pride themselves on. They are certainly that.”