It’s Put Up or Shut Up time for the Owls

About the time the preseason prognostications came out for Temple, the chatter coming from the players at the Edberg-Olson center was picking the Owls for the bottom of the AAC was a “joke” and “completely ridiculous.” Another Owl said: “It’s Temple. You cannot lose here.”

Now is the time for the Owls to put up or shut up starting at high noon on Saturday in the Homecoming Game against Memphis.

Win that one, and a lot of skeptics, including the one here, will be won over.

Lose it and the 2.5 over/under total for the Owls looks about right.

Interestingly enough, we didn’t hear anything on that front from any of the coaches. Rod Carey was the only asked about a win total and he issued some vague responses that “we want to give our fans a team to be proud of” and “we want to play hard every game.”

Hmm.

I suspect a lot of undermanned 0-11 and 1-11 Owl teams in the past played hard (see Al Golden’s first year for evidence of that), but failed to deliver the bottom line.

Wins.

The good news for the Owls is that last year’s 1-6 team pretty much played Memphis to a standoff on the road in a game that only got away in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter. Was that mostly the result of a good game from quarterback Anthony Russo? Can D’Wan Mathis help the Owls gain 500 yards of total offense, like Russo did?

If the Owls want to prove the naysayers wrong, they have a chance to starting on Saturday.

We will find out on Saturday.

The bad news is that if any team has underachieved from a perception standpoint it’s been this one.

We wrote in this space last week that the Owls would “win 61-7” give or take 20 points either way against Wagner and they hit the exact low end of that projection, a 41-7 win. Worse, they had to fight like hell to put lipstick on that slippery pig.

Meanwhile, an average MAC team–Buffalo–had no trouble putting a 69-7 number on Wagner and the Bulls struggled to beat Old Dominion 35-34 on Saturday.

You are the company you keep and Temple isn’t keeping even Buffalo or Old Dominion company.

Can that change?

Err, doubtful, but there is hope.

Memphis doesn’t appear to be as good as it was last year. Sure, the Tigers beat Mississippi State at home but a careful review of the punt return that won it for them showed the ref waving his arms to signify the ball dead before the Memphis punt returner picked it up and went to the house.

Replay or not, that alone should have nullified the return.

Memphis lost to University of Texas (San Antonio) last week and USTA is a nice unbeaten team but not on a par with the other unbeatens. It beat Illinois but Illinois is a second-tier Big 10 squad.

Memphis is not as good as Rutgers nor it is as good as Boston College. Lock down the special teams, do not defer the opening kickoff, and the Owls have a chance to compete. Down the ball, pick it up and hand it to the ref on punts.

Then the Owls have to protect Mathis a lot better than they have and establish the run.

We haven’t seen it consistently so far but all they need to do is put everything together for 60 minutes.

Now that conference play is here, it’s time to stop talking about being good and actually show it. Hell, it probably should have started four weeks ago but better late than never.

Friday: Memphis Preview

Sunday: Homecoming Analysis

Most unimpressive 41-7 win ever

A win is a win is a win, they say.

There are exceptions to every rule.

One of them came Saturday in Temple’s 41-7 win over perhaps … perhaps .. the worst FCS school playing today, Wagner.

The win told us a few things, some we knew, some we didn’t.

One, Miami of Florida, for all of Manny Diaz’s faults, is significantly better than Temple.

Diaz took care of business in a 69-0 win over Central Connecticut State.

Some recent Temple Homecoming crowds. The 2019 Homecoming drew 34,253. (The Tulane game listed above was 2015, not 2017.)

Central Connecticut State beat Wagner, 21-19, earlier this season.

Another is that Buffalo of the MAC is significantly better than Temple. Buffalo beat Wagner, 69-7, and took care of business in the first, not second, half.

The fact that Temple allowed this team a 7-0 lead and the game was respectable at halftime is a total and utter disgrace.

But we’ve come to expect that under Rod Carey at Temple.

Now we’re onto the American Athletic Conference portion of the schedule and we can only pray that the Owls know their shortcomings and strengths and act on both.

The one consolation that I can see in this is that the Owls were without two of their best players–in my mind their two best–Randle Jones and Jadan Blue.

Maybe they make a difference at Homecoming next week, maybe not.

All I know is that Blue caught three touchdown passes against Memphis in a 41-29 loss last year and his presence in the lineup next week makes the Owls that much better.

Blue sat out Saturday due to “concussion protocol” but, according to one member of the team who talked to him prior to the game, Blue told him it is “100 percent” that he will be back for the Memphis game. Jones probably also will be back.

That’s comforting.

Also comforting is the fact that D’Wan Mathis will not have to take the bad taste in the mouth of an 8-for-24 performance against Rutgers into the all-important league opener.

That’s important because Mathis strikes me as the kind of guy who needed a confidence-builder going into a big game. Put it this way. In his time on the field last year, he had more interceptions than touchdown passes and this year he did not look much better.

You can be Joe Namath in practice but if your resume in “real games” isn’t impressive, your confidence probably is shaken as well.

Now Mathis can take a little swag into probably the best-attended game of the season and a lot of people rooting for him.

Also, he will probably be unleased to run, something Memphis has not seen on film.

Whether that will be enough to beat Memphis is questionable at best.

What is not questionable is that the Owls will have to play their best game to do so and, to date, that has not happened.

Monday: What to expect

Memo to new AD: No More Wagners

Notre Dame is the kind of team TU should play, not Wagner

Somewhere in the new few days, the person who will be Temple’s new athletic director will sit down with the President and the Board of Trustees and discuss a vision for the future of the Owls’ athletic program.

Memo to that guy or gal:

Tell the BOT that you won’t be scheduling Wagner in football anymore or, for that matter, Stony Brook or Bucknell and you will work to get Lafayette and Rhode Island off future Owl schedules.

Temple can deliver the 4th largest market only if it gets bold with the schedule

The reasoning is simply this: The entire goal of the Temple athletic department should be to get in a Power 5 Conference. That ship may have already sailed but just in case it returns to the Port of Philadelphia, the university should be positioned for a promotion, not a demotion.

The way to do it is this: Schedule four Power 5 schools and beat two of them on a regular basis. Create some juice on the sidelines and in the stands. If this coaching staff can’t do it, find one that will.

This streak ended under Carey.

When the story of Pat Kraft is written at Temple, he will be known for a formula that puts a FCS team on the schedule every year, two Power 5s and another G5 school. He will also be known for giving the Owls Geoff Collins for two years, Manny Diaz for 18 days and Rod Carey for probably a short time as well.

It’s not a good look.

The new AD should have a bolder mission for Temple sports and that’s to put the Owls on course to be a winner in their two major sports.

Around the time the Owls are thumping Wagner in a glorified practice, Diaz’s Miami team will be playing Central Connecticut State. My educated guess is that Diaz will put an 81-0 thumping on CCS, the alma mater of former Temple head coach Steve Addazio. About a thousand miles North of that game, Temple will probably beat Wagner somewhere on the order of 61-7. The most competitive game Wagner played this year was a 21-19 loss to Central Connecticut State.

What do both games prove?

Absolutely nothing.

That’s a wasted weekend from the standpoint of program branding. Consider this: Four years ago, Wagner played UConn to a three-point loss. The next week it lost by 10 to East Stroudsburg University, a Division II program. When I went to Temple, that school was known as East Stroudsburg State Teachers College.

Miami’s brand can survive a game against Central Connecticut State and Penn State’s brand can survive one against Villanova. Temple doesn’t have that luxury.

Temple should never play a team that had a Division II team on the schedule so recently, let alone lost to it.

The argument in the interview room should be two-fold: One, play the Power 5 and have some success against them and put fans in the stands and get television ratings in the largest available market that doesn’t have a P5 team; two, if you need to beat a FCS team to get to six wins when 130 teams play FBS football, you need to get out of the football-playing business.

Temple does not need to get out of that business but needs to rejuvenate the product by winning.

Because the Owls have proven they can win big in football under Matt Rhule and Al Golden (and to a lesser extent Addazio and Collins) and draw huge TV ratings, that should be the new AD’s vision again. Golden is out there, but if he doesn’t want the job, surely there are young Al Goldens out there who can recapture the magic of Temple TUFF.

It has been done before and it can be done in the future.

That’s the bold vision the BOT needs to hear and a plan to execute it should be outlined.

Their next words should be:

“You’re hired.”

Picks this week: Liking 3 favorites and 1 dog this week. Wyoming 41, UCONN 7 (Wyoming favored by 29.5), Toledo 24, Ball State 14 (Toledo favored by 5), Western Michigan 31, San Jose State 21 (Western Michigan favored by 3), Boston College 24, Missouri 21 (Missouri favored by 1.5).

Last week’s update: Tulane let me down, but Wyoming easily covered, Northwestern lost, Tulsa covered, Purdue lost and Michigan State not only covered but won outright. So so far for the season 7-4-1 against the spread.

Late Saturday: Game, such as it is, analysis

Recent development: The Temple Curse

Ifeanyi Maijeh is warming the bench at Rutgers two years after being a first-team AAC performer at Temple.

For those Temple players who saw the performance of Isaiah Graham-Mobley and Khris Banks on Saturday and think grass is greener on the other side of the street, they might want to think again.

For every IGM and Banks, there are about five Quincy Roches or Ifeanyi Maijehs.

Call it The Temple Curse. Call it whatever you want but, since Matt Rhule left, it also applies to coaches who succeeded him.

First, we will stick with the players.

Linwood Crump will have to wait 1 more year to play for Daz.

Roche left Temple to go to Miami was considered “a 3-4 round” draft pick had he gone straight to the NFL from 10th and Diamond.

He left for Miami to ostensibly increase his draft standing but he really made it worse. Roche was drafted in the sixth round (not fourth) and to add insult to injury had to split his time on the field in his final year with two other defensive ends in Manny Diaz’s rotation.

He was cut by the Steelers and is now on their practice squad.

Had Roche remained at Temple and claimed a second consecutive AAC Defensive Player of the Year Award, chances are better than even that Roche would have been drafted no lower than four and a team with that kind of investment would have to think twice before cutting him.

Maijeh is a similar story. He was a first-team All-AAC defensive tackle in 2019 but used the portal to make his way to Rutgers where he has three whole tackles this season, all assists and no solo ones. His career definitely is on a downward trend and has been for some time. After that first season at Temple when he had 52 tackles and 6.5 sacks, he was putrid last year with only 15 tackles and no sacks.

Kenny Yeboah left Temple to go to Ole Miss but that didn’t help him in the draft, either. He wasn’t drafted and had to go to the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He was cut by the Jets and, like Roche, a practice squad player.

Anthony Russo left Temple to play in the Big 10 but it doesn’t look good for him, either, as Payton Thorne has been stellar. Russo got injured in meaningless mop-up time against Youngstown State and left the game in a walking boot. Had Russo remained at Temple he might have backed up D’Wan Mathis but more than certainly would have been ahead of true freshman Justin Lynch in the depth chart.

If that was Russo behind center on Saturday, do you think the Owls score “only” three points? I don’t. He put up a total of 58 as the starting QB against both Navy and Memphis last year and was playing a defense that allowed 28 points the week before to a far less talented UMass team.

Vandy running back Ra’Mahn Davis, who didn’t do squat in a 23-3 loss to East Tennessee (not regular Tennessee or even Middle Tennessee), was a victim of the Temple Curse as he is injured and for the season. He went the extra step of quitting in the middle of last season.

Cornerback Linwood Crump Jr. left the team to become almost a certain starter at Colorado State but he got injured in preseason and will not play this fall.

Somebody up there or down here or sideways doesn’t like players who leave Temple. So far so good for IGM and Banks but, if I’m them, my radar is up for cutback blocks or targeting next week.

Meanwhile, both Diaz and Geoff Collins are under fire at Miami and Georgia Tech and they might be dismissed before Rod Carey is because those schools routinely eat bad contracts and Temple does not.

Ironically, one of the stated reasons for this portal rule is if coaches could leave for another school without sitting out a year, players should be able to as well.

A simple solution for that (probably not holding up legally) would be for both coaches and players to have to sit out a year.

Now, it’s a free-for-all and MOST people are finding out that the grass is not greener on the other side of 10th Street.

Maybe that will stop the hemorrhaging of players in the future but it certainly doesn’t help Temple now.

Friday: The Wagner, err, Game

Saturday against Wagner: Enjoy the (last) win

A friend of mine for many years who pretty much knows Temple sports inside out put the Rod Carey Era (Error) in perfect perspective when I posted that the Georgia Tech fans are upset with Geoff Collins.

“He’s the Milli of college football head coaches. I fear we hired the Vanilli.”

Reading that line caused me to spit out my morning coffee and laugh out loud.

So true.

The song Milli and Vanilli got caught for being fakes on was “Blame it on the Rain.”

Our Vanilli blamed a 28-3 loss on the refs yesterday.

Really, Rod?

I could see blaming a 10-7 or maybe … maybe .. a 14-3 loss on the refs but 28-3?

We are seeing the last vestiges of a head coach in trouble.

I learned a few things I suspected but did not know for sure yesterday.

The least important one was that I could not take sunscreen into the stadium so as burned up as I was on the inside that’s how it showed on the outside.

The other three are way more important.

President Wingard, please heed these words.

One, the era of the hard-ass coach is over.

Two, the schemes on both the offensive and defensive sides are ass-backwards.

Three, when you have shitty special teams and WIN the toss, please do not … I repeat DO NOT … defer for the second half. I would rather see an onsides kick than a regular one in that situation but prefer to give my offense the ball over anything else.

That kickoff return killed any home-field advantage the Owls might have had.

When freaking UMASS gives BC a better game than Temple does, you know you have COACHING problems.

Let’s take No. 1 first. Getting to know the parents in the parking lot two years ago I got the vibe that almost every kid in the program “wanted” to transfer because they didn’t, in their words, “feel” Carey.

In other words, those kids–mostly good kids from good families–saw the direction Carey was taking the program and were not on board. The kids who could take the portal route did but those who couldn’t remained. There are a lot of good kids and good players here suffering as a result. They had been through winning programs under Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins and saw a decline under Carey. So did pretty much every Temple fan.

In order to win at Temple, you can’t be a “my-way-or-the-highway” guy. You’ve got to be a coach the players BOTH love and respect. The players loved Matt Rhule and Al Golden but more importantly respected both.

You would not see the hemorrhaging of players that we have seen under Carey with either or those two guys or a number of guys who are good players’ coaches.

You can be both–a players’ coach and a respected one.

Carey is neither.

The only reason why Temple will win 60-0 this weekend is the players. Certainly not the coaches. That’s how much better Temple’s players are than Wagner’s ones. Maybe a little more. Maybe a little less but I doubt the swing will be more than 20 points either way.

Enjoy it.

It will be the last one for a long time.

The way Temple played on Saturday, I don’t see the Owls beating either USF or Navy and those are the only two hopes for wins remaining on the schedule. Navy has a far better coaching staff and USF has Florida players. Even if the Owls win both of those games, are you satisfied with four wins?

I didn’t think so.

The next move is up to the President and the Temple Board of Trustees, if they care enough to bring us back to where we were three years ago.

If they don’t, all the work that got us to where we were in 2005 until 2019 will be for naught and throwing away that work of mostly two good coaches and men would be heartbreaking.

Monday: The Temple Curse

Friday: Wagner

BC-Temple: So many story lines, so little time

Saturday’s big question will be if Kraft’s feet can actually leave the ground on a BC touchdown

If you are walking around Lot K tomorrow, like I will be, you can be excused about having the feeling of de ja vu.

Shooting the breeze with Pat Kraft about football?

Check.

Walking around the Lot and seeing the affable family and friends of Khris Banks and Isaiah Graham-Mobley?

Check.

Shaking hands before the game with Boomer (Aaron Boumerhi)?

Check.

Been there, done that.

The last time many thousands of Temple fans saw the team this was the collective look after a 55-13 loss to an ACC team. Maybe these Owls can produce a smile around 3:15 p.m. Saturday.

Except for them being the good guys, they are now the bad guys.

How did the world ever turn upside down?

Welcome to college football, 2021.

In a perfect world, the good guys would stay the good guys and the bad guys would stay the bad ones.

Whatever you feel about Kraft, the current AD at Boston College and the former one at Temple, I don’t remember a single athletic director not named Gavin White who you could walk up to and get an HONEST opinion about the game of football from.

This exchange between me and Pat in Lot K circa Geoff Collins and Dave Patenaude comes to mind:

Me: “Pat, you’re going to have to talk to Geoff about Patenaude. I have no idea what he’s doing.”

Pat: “Mike, you and me both. He’s got me scratching my head every week.”

Most athletic directors would shrug their shoulders and say that’s the head coaches bailiwick.

This guy was an honest, good, man. He still is.

For the first time in two years, this beautiful tradition returns tomorrow.

When Kraft hired Manny Diaz to replace Collins at Temple, I screamed bloody murder in this space. I wrote then that Diaz, who was the son of the ex-Mayor of Miami, would be gone as soon as Mark Richt left.

I thought it would be a year or so.

Little did I know it would be 18 days.

Kraft never held it against me. He respected my opinion.

Now seeing what Diaz has done with Miami talent, I know Temple has dodged a huge bullet.

When he hired Rod Carey, I wrote that I thought Buffalo’s Lance Leipold or Eastern Michigan’s Chris Creighton might have been a better choice but, if Rod beats Boston College on Saturday (and I pray he will), Kraft might ironically be responsible for an embarrassing BC loss. I was for Leipold and Creighton because they did more with less than Carey did but Carey beating’s BC’s butt will prove my sorry ass wrong.

And, ironically, Pat Kraft right.

Geez, I hope so.

Hope doesn’t get me the AAC title or even a bowl game so I think BC will win this one and the 16-point spread sounds about right. The last time we saw Carey coach against an ACC team turned into a 55-13 loss and a lot of Temple fans walking out of the stadium disgusted.

The caveat there is we saw some life with the Owls last week.

The Owls showed a pulse and a lot of Temple TUFF in a 45-24 win over Akron. They got a good pass rush from their Power 5 transfers and an ESPN highlight reel play from Wake Forest portal guy Manny Walker. Temple needs a big pass rush, solid run stoppage and the kind of turnover-free football from Justin Lynch they got last week. Keep D’Wan Mathis on the bench and have him regain his swag against Wagner next week. That’s my vote. Have Justin play four games and save his redshirt unless he Wally Pipps Mathis in a big win over BC.

Put it this way: Temple had five turnovers in a 61-14 Week One loss and zero turnovers in a 45-24 win a week ago.

Football ain’t rocket science. It never was. Protect the football, rush the bad guys’ quarterback, win the damn game.

Whatever happens, it will be good to see Temple fans cheering the Owls and singing “T for Temple U” after every touchdown again. Temple drew 69,176 fans for its 2015 home opener, 35,004 fans or its 2016 opener and 35,117 for its 2017 home opener. It won two of those three games and attendance for the rest of the season suffered because of its shocking home opening loss to Army in 2016 and soared after wins the other two opening games. Win this one and the fans will keep coming back.

For once, it would be nice if the good guys would show the bad guys they made the wrong choice.

Picks this week: TULANE plus 14.5 at Ole Miss (Tulane gave Oklahoma all it wanted and Okie is better than Ole Miss); WYOMING -6.5 vs. Ball State; NORTHWESTERN -2.5 at Duke; TULSA +27.5 at The Ohio State; PURDUE +7.5 at Notre Dame (Purdue is considerably better than the Toledo and FSU teams ND beat and already has a win over a decent Oregon State squad); MICHIGAN STATE +6.5 at Miami. I think Purdue not only covers but wins the game outright, something on the order of 24-21.

9/21 update: Tulane let me down, but Wyoming easily covered, Northwestern lost, Tulsa covered, Purdue lost and Michigan State not only covered but won outright. So so far for the season 7-4-1 against the spread.

9/17 Update: Last week, predicted Pitt by five (it won by 7), Purdue 51-0 (it won 49-0), NIU by 4 (it lost by seven, a push) Nebraska by four (it won by 25), App. State by 3 (it lost by two) and BYU by one (it both won and covered).

Season to date: 4-2 straight up, 4-1-1 ATS

Sunday: Game Analysis

Monday: The Temple Curse

Beating BC anyway you can

It was only three years ago Temple last played Boston College.

Sometime late Saturday I received this text from a long-time Temple fan:

“Hey, did you see Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec went down with a wrist injury?”

Yeah, I did.

My initial reaction was that I wanted him to play so opposing fans and naysayers of Temple won’t say “yeah, but Jurkovec didn’t play” in the still unlikely event the Owls would win.

“I don’t want to win like that,” I typed back.

That was my initial reaction but after sleeping on the question I really don’t care if he plays or not.

I HOPE Temple plays to its potential, maybe gets a few breaks and pulls out the win. If one of those breaks is Jurkovec’s bum wrist, so be it. Temple will have to play with its backup QB, too, so I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the bad guys.

That’s how sorely Temple needs some breaks especially after getting a series of bad ones the last couple of years, especially in that all-important first home game.

Plenty of other teams are getting breaks and maybe it’s about time Temple gets some.

Really, the first couple of weeks in college football has restored a lot of the faith in the game that I had lost with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

First, UC-Davis won at Tulsa.

Then, South Dakota State won at Colorado State.

Then, East Tennessee State destroyed Vanderbilt and Montana won at Washington.

And, finally, Jacksonville State took advantage of a Hail Mary and won at Florida State.

The latter three wins, where FCS teams beat high-profile Power 5 teams, were particularly encouraging. None of those teams even recruit on the level of Temple, let alone the teams they were able to beat.

If those teams can make their own breaks over teams whose recruiting rankings are significantly higher, then so can Temple. Hell, Akron was far more competitive in its games last year than UMass was and destroyed a Bowling Green team, 31-3, that UMass would have probably lost to a season ago.

A year ago, a former classmate of mine suggested it was pure folly for Temple to ever entertain the notion that it can beat Boston College because, he said, “they recruit on a whole different level than Temple.”

I pointed out to him that the Boston College team that got destroyed by Cincinnati, 37-8, in 2019 couldn’t compete with a Cincy team that barely beat Temple (15-13).

“Yeah, well that was before they had Jurkovec,” he said.

Well, I really don’t care if they have Jurkovec or not as long as the pixie dust sprinkled on Montana, SDSU, ETSU, Jacksonville State nd UC-Davis finds its way to Lincoln Financial Field. There seems to be a lot of that dust around this season for some reason and Temple could use it dropping down from a cloud in South Philly between noon-3 on Saturday.

If so, Temple wins, with or without Jurkovec.

Friday: BC Preview

Now comes the hard part

Plenty of people who make millions on college football had Temple pegged for two wins before the first projection of the college football season in May.

Somewhere, a few months later, that was adjusted to 2.5 due to a lot of Temple money coming into the betting parlors.

Still, the thought was this:

Temple would beat both Akron and Wagner and the .5 covered the books in the event of a win over, say, USF.

With Temple’s 45-24 win over Akron yesterday, the conventional thinking is “now comes the hard part.”

Maybe.

But, really, how hard?

Gasparilla Bowl defensive MVP William Kwenkeu (35) had two sacks in the win over FIU in 2017. His game against Akron yesterday might have been just as impressive.

Boston College had a similar win over UMass, which Vegas generally considers is a team not even as good as Akron.

If the Owls can beat Boston College on Saturday, the entire vibe changes inside the $17 million dollar Edberg-Olson Complex.

Maybe the vibe has already changed.

Consider this: Justin Lynch is the FIRST quarterback we’ve found in the entire history of Temple football (playing the sport since 1884) who WON a game as a true freshman starting his first game. (Hell, for MOST of those years, true freshmen were ineligible to even play but what Lynch did was impressive nonetheless.)

He was much more than a game manager. A lot of pretty good “veteran” quarterbacks (Lee Saltz for one) never had a day this good: 19 for 23, 245 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

If the Akron game becomes a confidence-builder and a building block for Lynch, he becomes a much more relaxed quarterback against Boston College and that can only bode well for the Owls’ chances in their home opener.

Another positive sign is that the team’s stars on both sides of the ball took over when they needed to on Saturday. Down, 14-0, Randle Jones took a jet sweep to the house. Two years ago, Carey called Jones a “flat-out stud” but he really wasn’t able to show it except on the opening play of the SMU game last year. Jones has been hampered by injuries.

Now healthy, Jones is a difference-maker.

So is William Kwenkeu on the other side of the ball.

Only the die-hard Owl fans know that William was the “defensive MVP’ in the Owls 28-3 win over FIU in the Gasparilla Bowl way back in 2017 and he’s still here four years later.

Thank God.

Not all Owl fans stuck around for the thrilling conclusion.

His scoop and score was the other key play in the game.

With the announcers talking about Temple in a “malaise” those two plays took Temple right out of it and back into a Temple TUFF mode.

Does it last?

A win on Saturday will be hard, but nothing worth achieving ever is easy.

Maybe the home crowd makes a difference. If so, a lot of Temple football haters can rip up their betting slips.

Monday: Not Like That

How important is Temple at Akron?

How important is the Temple at Akron football game?

Important, and also not important at all.

If you are Rod Carey, it’s very important.

A loss continues a decline in his performance as head coach and puts him on the road to inevitable dismissal at the end of this or next season. A convincing win combined with a highly unlikely win over Boston College next week makes him 2-1 and might turn around the clubhouse to set it on the path to five or six wins, but realistically no more.

If you are a hardcore and objective Temple football fan like me, really not important at all. We’ve been saying in this space since February that the apparent “plan” for Carey as the program’s CEO was to largely rely on the backups to the players who were most responsible for a 1-6 season in 2020 to turn around fortunes in 2021.

Look at these five blocks. THAT’S Temple TUFF.

That was a recipe, in our minds, for a 2-10 season and that’s only if you beat Akron (3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN+).

A respected poster here, KJ, says 1-11 and doesn’t think there’s a chance to beat Akron.

We will see.

Put it this way. The Akron team the Owls are a 6.5-point favorite over beat Bowling Green, 31-3, last year to close out the season. Bowling Green is pretty bad but lost to Tennessee last week by a similar score (38-6). Akron lost to Auburn by pretty much the same score Temple lost to Rutgers and most college football fans will tell you without hesitation that Auburn is better than Rutgers.

When 13 mostly impact players leave, it’s your job as the CEO to bring in 13 better players from P5 programs. The best Carey could do is six P5 players and their impact is largely suspect. He didn’t do his job in the offseason and, as a result, might have dug his own grave.

That photo in the middle of this post tells you all you need to know about how far Temple has fallen in the last decade. In 2011, with an all-out commitment to the run, Temple hammered host Akron, 41-3. Look at those five blocks in that photo. Pretty much pancakes.

That’s the definition of Temple TUFF.

That’s a football identity. Knock people off their feet, establish the run, and then make big plays in the play-action passing game. Catch the ball and advance it on special teams and make big plays off the returns. Don’t be afraid to both return or block kicks. Under Rod Carey, a secured fair catch is considered a successful special teams’ play. Blocking a punt or a field goal? Out of the question.

That’s not Temple TUFF.

Temple really has no identity pretty much since Matt Rhule left. The Owls try to fool people with the RPO (run/pass/option) and end up fooling no one but themselves.

John Chaney once said “winning is an attitude” but so is losing and that’s why this quote from one Temple player after a 61-14 loss is so disturbing: “Rutgers wanted it more than we did.”

If you go 1-6 and your next chance to prove that 1-6 was bogus is almost a year away, you should want something a lot more than a 3-6 team did. There’s no reason anyone else should want something more.

Rutgers, at least in that sense, was a lot more important than Akron and the Owls might have showed us who we thought they were that day.

Unless they go out and beat Akron, 61-14. I’m hoping that’s the case but not counting or even expecting it. A 13-10 win elicits a “meh” but certainly is more acceptable than a 13-10 loss. I’m tired of hearing excuses about “playing hard” and correcting “fixable errors” like having two of the same numbers on the field at the same time. Do you think on one of those two bus trips to Rutgers someone, anyone, would have mentioned out loud that we have two No. 39s on an 81-man travel roster? That’s the kind of stuff that should be taken care of before the fact, not after. Losing programs make mental errors like that. Winning programs don’t. Winning is the only important thing.

I hold Temple football to the standard Al Golden and Matt Rhule established and nothing else is important to me at all.

If the Temple University administration has a pulse, it would have a similar definition of important.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Monday: Not Like That

Picks this week: Pitt 35, Tennessee 30 (Pitt favored by 3), Northern Illinois 24, Wyoming 20 (Wyoming favored by 7),

Purdue 51, UConn 0 (Purdue favored by 34), Nebraska 21, Buffalo 17 (Nebraska favored by 14), Appalachian State 17, Miami 14 (Miami favored by 14) and BYU 17, UTAH 16 (Utah favored by 7).

Season to date: 0-0 against the spread, 0-0 straight up.

Update: Predicted Pitt by five (it won by 7), Purdue 51-0 (it won 49-0), NIU by 4 (it lost by seven, a push) Nebraska by four (it won by 25), App. State by 3 (it lost by three) and BYU by one (it both won and covered).

Season to date: 4-2 straight up, 4-1-1 ATS

Meanwhile, for Temple, timing is everything

In 1599, William Shakespeare first used the phrase “timing is everything” in his play Julius Caesar.

Tell Temple football fans about it.

Especially over the last five days.

That’s true both in a micro sense and a macro one.

Micro because a week ago today we talked about a driving rain at Rutgers on Thursday night being the great point-spread equalizer should the game be played in its scheduled time slot. We mentioned 32-point underdog Navy beating Penn State, 7-6, in a driving rainstorm in 1974. That year, Navy finished 4-7 and Penn State 10-2.

Instead of a simple rainstorm, we got a 100-year flood and there was no great point-spread equalizer because it was pushed to a perfect weather Saturday. Had the game been played on Thursday, Rutgers would have probably won but it would not have been 61-14.

That’s micro.

The macro came to bite Temple in the ass with another aspect of its scheduling with Rutgers. The Owls and Scarlet Knights went eight years without a game and, in the space of those eight years, Temple was 49-36 and Rutgers 21-58.

Think Temple could have won a lot of games against Rutgers had it been on the schedule those eight years?

Definitely.

Certainly in 2019 when the Owls beat Maryland, 20-17, at Lincoln Financial Field and, later that same year, the Terrapins traveled to Rutgers and won, 48-7. Temple finished 8-5 that year; Rutgers 2-10.

Nothing, though, in the macro world of timing hurt Temple than the news that broke Friday and will probably be confirmed sometime this week.

The Big 12 expanded and took Houston, UCF, Cincinnati and BYU.

This means a lot more to Temple’s long-term football future than any 61-14 loss.

Had the Big 12 imploded in, say, 2017 and not 2021, there’s a real good chance Temple would have been one of those four schools because the Owls were coming off two double-digit winning years where they led the league in average attendance in one year (2015) and proved they could deliver the Philadelphia TV market when their game against Notre Dame was the highest-rated ever college football game in prime time TV in Philly.

Mind you, Notre Dame and Penn State were on prime time TV in the Philly market five times before that so Temple, not Penn State, proved to be the team that could deliver those kind of numbers in the market.

Since Philadelphia is the nation’s fourth-largest market, it is the largest one currently without a P5 team. Holding the market, though, is one of many factors the Big 12 considered and what happened since 2016 has killed Temple’s chances, maybe for good.

The Owls picked a terrible time to go 1-6 last year and the perception of the Owls as a P5 target slipped precipitously. Nobody is picking Temple coming off a 1-6.

Now the Owls find themselves in a watered-down AAC with probably a lot less coming than the $7 million TV money they get per year. Bad timing since they are on the hook to pay an underperforming head coach $2 million per for three more years.

Bad luck for the Owls, definitely, but even worse timing. The loss of dollars coming in tie the administration’s hands long-term.

If Bill Shakespeare were around, he’d probably say we’re heading for a winter of our discontent and it might be more than one.

Friday: Akron Preview

Sunday: Game Analysis

Monday: Not Like That