Wake Forest running back Cade Carney runs the ball against Temple during the first half of the Military Bowl NCAA college football game, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016 in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
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Wake Forest continues ACC’s strong bowl start with upset of No. 24 Temple

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If the ACC’s upper crust is as competitive as the league’s middle class, Florida State, Louisville and Clemson should go ahead and start popping the champagne now. After 6-6 Boston College and 6-6 NC State earned a pair of bowl victories over fellow 6-6 Power 5 teams on Monday, 6-6 Wake Forest scored an impressive pelt on Tuesday with a 34-26 upset of American champion and 24th-ranked Temple in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md.

The Owls, playing on the same field on which they trounced Navy to win their conference title earlier this month, started as they finished that day — with an interception of Wake Forest John Wolford on the third snap of the game, and a 48-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Walker to Adonis Jennings just one play later.

Wolford redeemed himself two drives later, finding Cam Serigne for a game-tying 41-yard touchdown pass and then a 20-yard scoring strike to Tabari Hines one drive later, giving Wake Forest a 14-7 lead at the 5:20 mark of the first quarter.

The lead would not change hands again.

In fact, the Demon Deacons (7-6) ripped off a 31-0 first half run, turning a Temple fumble and interception inside its own territory into a pair of touchdowns to build the 24-point lead.

Temple (10-4) spent the next two quarters chipping away at that deficit, using another long touchdown pass from Walker to Jennings and four Aaron Boumerhi field goals to eventually climb back to within 31-26 with 3:56 left to play in the game. But the Owls’ inability to convert on third down did them in; three of Boumerhi’s four field goals were from 38 yards or closer. Walker completed 28-of-49 passes for 396 yards with two scores to Jennings and an interception, but the Owls netted minus-20 rushing yards and converted only one of a dozen third down tries.

With a chance to force a stop and add a touchdown to complete the comeback, Temple allowed an 80-yard kickoff return by John Armstrong to start Wake Forest’s next drive at the Temple 15-yard line. The Deacons could not move the ball, but a 30-yard Mike Weaver field goal pushed the lead to 34-26 with 1:59 remaining, and Temple’s would-be game-tying drive ended before it started as the Owls were pushed off the field in a turnover on downs.

Wolford completed 10-of-19 passes for 183 yards with two touchdowns and a pick, while Cade Carney and Matt Colburn combined to rush 31 times for 131 yards and a touchdown apiece.

As good as the ACC’s start to bowl season has been, the American’s has been that bad. Outside of Tulsa’s whipping of Central Michigan, the American has fallen short of expectations this December, with Houston being blown out by San Diego State, Memphis failing to keep pace with Western Kentucky, Central Florida losing to Arkansas State in an effective home game, and now its league champion falling to a 6-6 Power 5 team.

Stout defense has Wake rolling over AAC champ Temple in Military Bowl

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - NOVEMBER 5:  Quarterback John Wolford #10 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons hands off to running back Cade Carney #36 during the first quarter of an NCAA football game against the Virginia Cavaliers on November 5, 2016 at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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With an off-field controversy seemingly behind them, Wake Forest came into Tuesday afternoon looking for its first postseason win since 2008.  After two quarters of play, they’re 30 minutes away from ending that nearly decade-long drought.

Thanks in very large part to a stifling defense, Wake jumped out to a 14-7 first-quarter lead on Temple in the Military Bowl Presented by Northrup Grumman and extended it even further in the second to take a 31-10 advantage into the halftime locker room.  How stifling was the Demon Deacon defense?  The Owls scored on a 48-yard touchdown pass on their first play from scrimmage.  The remainder of the half, the Owls managed 89 yards of total offense.

Wake’s run defense was particularly effective, holding Temple to just 14 yards on 15 carries, with 23 of those yards coming on a late carry by Jahad Thomas.  The Owls entered today’s game fourth in the AAC and 51st nationally in averaging just over 191 yards per game on the ground.

John Wolford nearly accounted for a majority of the offense for both teams, passing for 183 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns in helping the Demon Deacons grab a solid first-half lead.  Temple’s offense (137) and Wake’s rushing offense (80) accounted for a combined 217 yards as, aside from Wolford’s performance, it was a decidedly defensive first two quarters of play.

The Owls are currently riding a seven-game winning streak, which included a win in the AAC championship game.  That proved to be Matt Rhule‘s last game as the head coach as he left for the Baylor job and is not coaching this postseason contest.

The Demon Deacons, meanwhile, had lost two of their las eight after winning four straight to start the 2016 season.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  The Miami Hurricanes kick off to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.

Temple claims first conference championship since 1967; likely sends WMU to Cotton Bowl

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 03: Marshall Ellick #10 of the Temple Owls (R) celebrates with Adonis Jennings #17 after catching a first half touchdown pass against the Navy Midshipmen during the AAC Championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Temple Owls (10-3) did their part to make the job a little bit easier for the College Football Playoff’s selection committee in the next 24 hours. A 34-10 victory in the American Athletic Conference championship game in Annapolis against No. 19 Navy (9-3) will more than likely mean MAC champion Western Michigan will be heading to the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. For the Owls, it is the first conference championship in program history since 1967, and just the second conference crown for the Owls.

Temple took care of business in the first half by scoring touchdowns on each of their first three offensive possessions to go up 21-0, stunning the home Navy crowd in the process while key Midshipmen went down with injuries. Starting quarterback Will Worth was among those lost for the day in the first half, while Temple’s Phillip Walker was tossing two touchdown completions with great confidence; one 22-yard pass to Ventell Bryant and a 56-yard deep ball to Keith Kirkwood. Jahad Thomas ran in the first touchdown of the day for the Owls on the opening drive of the game.

For the first time in program history, Temple has won 10 games in a season in back-to-back years. This also marks Temple’s conference championship game victory, a year after playing in the first AAC Championship Game last season as East Division champion on the road against Houston. Perhaps the experience of last season came into play, as did the experience of playing Army in the season opener (which Temple lost). If he has not already, expect Temple head coach Matt Rhule to start hearing his name in a few more rumors and his phone to be a bit more busy as the coaching carousel continues to spin.

Temple is not expected to essentially come out of nowhere to pass an undefeated Western Michigan with three losses on their record, so the Owls will be first in line among the AAC programs to slot into bowl games with conference affiliations this season. A slot in the Miami Beach Bowl would be a nice reward, but a chance to play an ACC opponent in the Military Bowl may also be an option. That would mean returning to Annapolis for a second straight game in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Navy already had a spot in the bowl  lineup reserved due to an association with the Armed Forces Bowl. The bowl invitation has already been represented but the Naval Academy was wise to hold off on accepting it until known whether or not a bigger bowl game could be on the horizon. That will not happen this year, as Navy is eliminated from the Group of Five New Years six conversation with the loss to Temple. So Navy will be heading to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas on December 23. Their opponent is contracted to come from the Big 12, but that spot could be open if the Big 12 cannot fill all of its bowl spots. North Texas could benefit from such a situation, and having a team from Texas would be an ideal alternative for the bowl game. Navy still has one more game to play though, as they play rival Army in the annual Army-Navy Game next weekend in Baltimore. Considering some of the injuries that came into play Saturday, Navy’s health should be a concern with a rested Army coming up next week.

Temple jumps out to 24-3 lead as Midshipmen hit injury bug

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 03: Keith Kirkwood #89 of the Temple Owls (R) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass with teammates Romond Deloatch #11 (L) and Ventell Bryant #1 against the Navy Midshipmen during the first half of the AAC Championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Navy will play the remainder of the American Athletic Conference championship game without starting quarterback Will Worth, Toneo Gulley or Daryll Bonner. All three left the game with injuries in the first half of the American Athletic Conference championship game in Annapolis. As if that were not enough, the Temple Owls were already up 21-0 at the time and looking to slam the door shut on Navy in its first conference championship game appearance in program history, and on Navy’s hopes of reaching the New Years Six by slipping past MAC champion Western Michigan. Temple leads Navy at the halftime break, 24-3.

Temple, playing in its second straight AAC game after losing at Houston last season, marched right down the field on the Midshipmen on the game’s opening drive. Jahad Thomas capped off the well-executed 12-play drive with a 15-yard touchdown run. The Owls pushed their lead to 14-0 on their next possession after the defense came up with a fourth-down stop at the Temple 41-yard line. Phillip Walker completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ventell Bryant. Navy would then uncharacteristically fumble the football away on the fourth play of the ensuing drive, leading to a third Temple touchdown, a 56-yard touchdown pass from Walker to Keith Kirkwood.

Temple’s Avery Williams was ejected in the second quarter for a targeting foul on backup Navy quarterback Zach Abbey. The helmet-to-helmet hit left Williams thriving in pain after the play before walking off the field as the review was underway. Abbey was playing in place of a banged-up Worth, who hobbled off the field moments earlier. Abbey would toss his first completion of his college career later on the drive, which ended with a field goal to get Navy on the scoreboard.

A late interception thrown by Abbey allowed Temple a chance to tack on a late field goal by Aaron Boumerhi from 48 yards out. Just moments earlier, Boumerhi missed from 50 yards.

If Temple goes on to win the AAC championship, it would seem very likely Western Michigan will head to the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. Even with a win, there may not be enough Temple can do with three losses this season to wiggle past the Broncos.