Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch
While neither team wanted to end up in Boca Raton, this bowl game offers the best matchup with a Group of Five squad other than the Peach Bowl. Both Toledo and Temple had legitimate hopes of earning the Group of Five’s berth in a New Year’s Six bowl but fell just short. The Rockets’ loss to Western Michigan in their regular season finale denied them a shot at the Mid-American Conference title. Temple could have replaced Houston in the Peach Bowl but fell short against the Cougars in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
The result of both teams’ denied conference title dreams, though, is a compelling bowl game featuring two stellar defenses. The Boca Raton Bowl also offers the first chance to see what Toledo will look like with Jason Candle running the show, after Matt Campbell’s departure to Iowa State.
Keep an eye on: Temple LB Tyler Matakevich
If you haven’t watched Matakevich play yet, do yourself a favor and catch his final college game. The senior linebacker won the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top defensive player after recording 126 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and five interceptions this season. Matakevich has an incredible ability to read the play and get to the ball carrier, as his 243 tackles of the past two seasons demonstrate. He’s the leader of a stout Temple defense that has allowed just 4.7 yards per play this season.
Did you know…?
Temple’s extraordinary rise under head coach Matt Rhule reached new heights this season with the program’s third bowl berth since 1979 and its fifth ever. The Owls have already earned double-digit victories for just the second time in program history and could set a record for wins in a season with a victory over Toledo.
In what should be a low-scoring affair, this game will come down to Toledo’s ability to move the ball against Temple’s physical defense. The Owls held Notre Dame and Houston’s potent attacks to just 24 points each and limited Memphis to just 12 points in a Nov. 21 win. However, the Rockets present a serious challenge on the ground, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, 16th best in nation. Kareem Hunt has gained an average of 136.25 yards per game over his past four games and leads Toledo’s three-headed rushing attack. The Rockets’ offense is one of the best in the nation at moving the chains on third down, converting 46.55% of the time. But Temple’s defense has allowed third-down conversions just 31.41% of the time. Whichever unit wins that battle Tuesday may win the game.