Temple vs. North Carolina: Military Bowl preview and picks against the spread

Yahoo Sports

Temple (8-4) vs. North Carolina (6-6) 

Location: Annapolis, Maryland | When: Dec. 27 (Noon ET) | TV: ESPN | Line: North Carolina -5.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

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Temple: Rod Carey’s first season in charge of the Owls turned out pretty well. A loss to Buffalo in Week 3 wasn’t exactly a highlight, but Temple beat Memphis 30-28 on Oct. 12 to make up for that.

Losses to SMU and UCF followed that upset win but Temple got back on track with wins in three of its last four games. That loss was a 15-13 defeat to a Cincinnati team that went to the AAC title game.

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell has thrown for 35 touchdowns in 2019. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell has thrown for 35 touchdowns in 2019. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

North Carolina: The Tar Heels improved by four wins in Mack Brown’s first season in his second stint. The former UNC and Texas coach was re-hired out of the broadcast studio to replace Larry Fedora and has gotten UNC back to respectability in just one season.

UNC beat South Carolina and Miami to start the year but then lost to Wake Forest and Appalachian State. A one-point loss to Clemson followed that, but UNC can at least say it’s played Clemson the toughest of anyone so far in 2019.

UNC was 4-6 with two weeks to go in the season but wins over Mercer and NC State got it to bowl eligibility. 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

Because it’s the Friday after Christmas and the day before the College Football Playoff. You’re going to be home and needing to watch some post-Boxing Day football.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Temple WR Branden Mack: Temple QB Anthony Russo likes to throw a lot to Jadan Blue, who has 87 catches for 975 yards. Mack’s come close to Blue’s yardage total with far fewer catches. Mack has 56 catches for 886 yards and leads the team with seven receiving touchdowns. The Owls are also 4-1 when he goes over 100 yards receiving. 

North Carolina QB Sam Howell: One of the gems of North Carolina’s 2019 recruiting class has quietly put together an impressive freshman season. Howell is 234-of-388 passing for 3,347 yards and has thrown 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Howell has averaged nearly nine yards an attempt in an offense that averages over six yards a play and could be really, really good next year. 

Temple OL Matt Hennessy is a 2020 NFL draft prospect. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Temple OL Matt Hennessy is a 2020 NFL draft prospect. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Temple C Matt Hennessy: He’s a rising name in draft circles and could end up being one of the top-five interior OL prospects in 2020 if the redshirt junior opts to declare this season. Hennessy has been a fixture at the pivot the past three seasons and has graded out by Pro Football Focus as one of the best pass-blocking centers in college football the past two seasons. Hennessy lacks elite anchor strength, can be too penalty-prone (holds and false starts) and dealt with a knee injury. He’s smart, tough and effective, however, and Hennessy’s battle against underrated NT Aaron Crawford should be a good test.

— Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Temple: The Owls have already reached the eight-win mark for the fourth time in the last five seasons. A win at the Military Bowl would be Temple’s first bowl win since a Gasparilla Bowl victory in 2017.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels haven’t been to a bowl since the 2016 Sun Bowl. And North Carolina hasn’t won a bowl game since the 2013 Belk Bowl. That was Fedora’s second season in charge.

PICKS

Nick Bromberg: North Carolina -5.5

Sam Cooper: Temple +5.5

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: UNC -5.5

Pete Thamel: Temple +5.5

Dan Wetzel: Temple +5.5

Sean Sullivan: UNC -5.5

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