No. 20 Cincinnati will put its unbeaten record on the line in Philadelphia and Temple will try to stay ahead of Saturday’s opponent in the American Athletic Conference standings.
Cincinnati (6-0, 2-0 AAC) and Temple (4-3, 3-0) will square off at Lincoln Financial Field at noon ET Saturday. Luke Fickell’s Bearcats (6-0) are one of eight undefeated FBS teams remaining in college football and one of three in the American.
The Bearcats had a bye last week but moved up to 20th in the latest Associated Press poll. It’s the highest ranking the program has had since the team was No. 4 in 2009 under former coach Brian Kelly.
Cincinnati is already bowl eligible for the first time in three seasons. The Bearcats have their sights on much more than a bowl trip in 2018, however.
“It’s that mentality of let’s continue to enjoy what it is that we’ve been doing. Don’t want anything to slow us down and be a distraction,” Fickell told reporters after his team beat Tulane on Oct. 6. ” … I want them to stay hungry and not put limitations on us.”
Cincinnati enters the game with one of the best defenses in the nation.
The Bearcats are allowing just 13.7 points per game, and they rank third in the country in scoring defense. They’ve held opponents to seven points or less in half of their six games, and they also rank fourth in the country in total defense (274.3 yards per game).
Cincinnati held Tulane to 266 total yards in its last game and, on offense, posted 24 of its 37 points in the first half. Led by quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Michael Warren II, the Bearcats average 38.3 points per game — the 21st-best mark in the country.
Ridder has thrown for 1,062 yards, 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions through six games while adding 315 rushing yards and four scores on the ground. Warren, meanwhile, has accumulated 664 rushing yards and has found the end zone 11 times.
Fickell, the former Ohio State defensive coordinator who’s in his second season as Cincinnati’s head coach, said there’s a “different vibe” around his team this season.
“It’s something that you see when we take the practice field,” Fickell told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s a little bit of that bounce, a little bit of that joy to what it is that we do. Everybody loves it when you’re winning.”
Temple has won four of its last five games after starting the season 0-2. The Owls are one of four teams in the AAC’s East division with unblemished conference records (No. 10 UCF and No. 21 South Florida are also unbeaten). Temple got to 3-0 in conference play with a 24-17 win over Navy last week.
Temple redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Russo has blossomed in his role as the starter in recent weeks. Including a 300-yard performance against Navy, Russo has combined to throw for 554 yards and five touchdowns while completing 78.6 percent of his passes in his last two games.
Temple could be without starting running back Ryquell Armstrong for its second straight game. Armstead missed the game against Navy and his status was uncertain for Saturday, coach Geoff Collins told the media this week. Armstead, a senior who is nursing an ankle injury, has rushed for 626 yards and six touchdowns in six games.
“We know what a great player ‘Rock’ is and we are excited about his healthy return, whenever that may be,” Collins told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Saturday starts a tough stretch for Temple. After facing Cincinnati, Temple’s next three games are at UCF, at Houston and against South Florida. Each of those teams are unbeaten in conference play.
“Our focus every single week is to go 1-0,” Collins told KYW Newsradio, “and we’ve got really good opponents we get to play in the American Athletic Conference. So we’re just trying to do that every single week.”