The Temple Owls are poised for their third AAC title game in the past five seasons, but in order to get there, they can't afford to look past the resurgent East Carolina Pirates on Thursday night. The East Division contests kicks off at 8 p.m. ET from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Owls (3-1) could be headed toward a memorable season, and their AAC fortunes will largely rest on the outcome of home dates against Memphis and Central Florida later this month after they defeated Georgia Tech 24-2 last week. They will likely face a challenge from the rebuilding Pirates (3-2), who have won consecutive games for the first time since 2016 and are coming off a 24-21 road win against Old Dominion. The Owls are 12-point favorites, up a half-point from the opener, and the over-under for total points scored is 47 in the latest Temple vs. East Carolina odds. Before making your Temple vs. ECU picks, make sure you hear what SportsLine senior analyst Josh Nagel has to say.

A Reno-based handicapper with more than 20 years of experience in the sports wagering industry, Nagel specializes in collegiate athletics and was SportsLine's top college football analyst last year by hitting 60 percent of his spread picks. He also enters this week on a 6-1 run with his college football spread picks. What's more, he has had a keen sense for the tendencies of these AAC programs, posting a stunning 5-1 record on against the spread picks involving the Pirates or Owls over the past two seasons.

In last year's Independence Bowl, Nagel told SportsLine members that Duke (+4.5) was undervalued against Temple and predicted the play of quarterback Daniel Jones would be the difference. In his final appearance for the Blue Devils, Jones threw for 423 yards and five touchdowns as they cruised to a 56-27 victory. Anyone who followed Nagel's advice picked up another winner, and those who have consistently followed him are way up.

Now, he has zeroed in on Temple vs. ECU from every angle and released a point-spread selection that he's sharing over at SportsLine.

Nagel knows that although Temple now has its fifth coach this decade, it hasn't stopped the Owls from maintaining their identity as fundamentally sound and physical. Those attributes are largely credited to former coach Matt Rhule, who is now at Baylor. Former Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey is now at the helm and, through four games, the Owls look as formidable as ever. 

They have allowed just 31 total points in their three victories. They held a Maryland club that had scored 142 points combined in its first two games to just 17 points and 340 yards. What's more, all three turnovers the Owls forced against Georgia Tech came when the Yellow Jackets were inside the 35-yard line and threatening to score. Temple is 2-1 against the spread versus FBS teams this season, compared to 1-2 for ECU.

The Owls also throttled the Pirates 49-6 last year, but they are far from assured of covering the Eastern Carolina vs. Temple spread on Thursday.

Last week, the Pirates used a blocked punt for a touchdown and a 72-yard scoring pass from Holton Ahlers to Blake Proehl in building a 17-3 halftime lead. It was their largest lead at the break over an FBS opponent since the 2015 season. They forced three turnovers while limiting the Monarchs to 293 total yards. East Carolina allowed a touchdown and two-point conversion with 2:13 left to make it a three-point game. But it closed out the victory by making first downs and running out the clock.

Nagel has broken down this matchup from every angle and identified the critical factor that has him all over one side of the spread. He's only sharing it at SportsLine.

Who wins ECU vs. Temple? And what critical factor makes one side of the spread a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Temple vs. ECU spread you should jump on Thursday, all from the seasoned expert who has hit 83 percent of his spread picks on these teams, and find out.