The Second-Easiest Schedule In College Football


Instead of heading to the beach or having a barbecue, I spent most of the entire Memorial Day evening watching guys a little older than me tell war stories.

The channel was 39, the PBS Channel in Allentown, and the guys were Vietnam Veterans telling stories about how absurd the rules of engagement were. One guy said that to break the boredom he and his buddies made up  a FKIA list. FKIA stood for “flies killed in action” and the guy who killed the most flies in a given week would earn the pot. As a lark, they included the FKIA list in with the EKIA “enemies killed in action” list and none of the superiors said anything about it. To make a long story short, the brass thought that FKIA and EKIA was  to differentiate between Viet Con and NVR troops and the killed in action lists eventually made it to the Walter Cronkite CBS News and Cronkite was reporting 100-1 kill ratios of Americans to bad guys.

As a result of the high enemy kill ratio, the GIs were told they had to get permission to return fire. In other words, if they were shot at, they had to call headquarters and ask to shoot back.

Absurd indeed.

The 2016 Temple Football schedule is a little like that FKIA list because it is the second easiest schedule in FBS. What does it all mean? It means in the absurd state of college football today, the Owls can go 13-0 and win the AAC title and quite likely not get a Final Four Playoff invitation, let alone play for the national championship.

Make that definitely not get a FF invite because the Owls’ strength of schedule is rated 127 of 128 FBS teams. As Temple fans, we would love to have that kind of problem.

While there are benefits of an easy schedule, the whole point of playing is to win and the whole point of winning is to compete for championships. That a 13-0 team would be left out of the national playoff picture is absurd.

Just like that FKIA list.

Friday: The Mystery Big-Time Team Coming To Philadelphia

Burning Anthony Russo’s Redshirt

Montel Harris, Nate Combs

For Memorial Day, our favorite Temple-Army football photo of all time. Montel Harris telling Army captain and linebacker Nate Combs how he went off for 351 yards and seven touchdowns in a 63-32 win on Nov. 17, 2012. Combs, now a First Lt., is leader of a 40-man rifle platoon in the U.S. 101st Airborne Division.

Somewhere, somehow, Anthony Russo is getting ready to play football when he arrives on the campus of Temple University in a little over a month.

Sounds like a solid plan to me because, based on what we saw this spring, he is as good as any of the other Temple football backup quarterbacks right now. The Owls normally do not like to burn redshirts, but in the case of a special talent like Russo, that’s an exception they have to make for at least a couple of reasons.


Anthony Russo.

Frank Nutile (pronounced  NEW TILE) is the current backup, having won the No.2  job from Johnny Manziel-clone Logan Marchi. Yet, it has been a long time before Nutile was on the field as a starting quarterback and that was as a high school player at Don Bosco Prep. In that year, 2013, Nutile threw for 1,392 yards and 12 touchdowns. Compare that to Russo’s numbers at Archbishop Wood last year: 2,452 yards and 35 touchdowns.

So you have a guy in Russo who put up numbers more than twice as good as Nutile and who is nowhere near as rusty as Nutile is against live competition. Does Nutile being at Temple more than make up for that stark difference in pure talent?

Probably not.

The other reason to get Russo some time in 2016 is that he will most likely be your 2017 starting quarterback in the game at Notre Dame. The last time Temple played a true freshman at Notre Dame, kicker Jim Cooper Jr.,   he was more shellshocked that the Germans defending Berlin in May of 1945 and that scared him for the rest of his Temple career.

Getting Russo some time in some of the blowout wins this fall sounds like a plan. He’s getting ready. The Owls should give him a decent shot to be P.J. Walker’s backup come August. He’s probably their second-best quarterback now and they will have to lean heavily on him in 2017 so burning this redshirt should be considered.

Wednesday: The Second Easiest Schedule in College Football

Be All, Or End All?


Houston is more like Temple than any other AAC school.

This will be the last post, at least on this site, on a stadium until Temple University officially makes some sort of pronouncement about a timetable for construction.  The prediction here is that will not come for another year or two, so any further speculation on the topic is really silly.

All that has happened so far is that Temple has announced it wants to build a stadium and the city has announced it is against Temple building that stadium. We have reached, with apologies to Donald J. Trump, a Mexican Standoff.

This is going to be a long, drawn-out, process. First, the uni is going to have to get past the minefield that is City Council and, once past that, artillery of the “community” and, after that hurdle, the tanks and suicide bombers of possible law suits holding up the project. People who are talking like there could be a game in the new stadium in two years are really kidding themselves. More like two years until there is the first shovel on the ground.

If that.

This post, though, is largely to tell the tale about Houston’s beautiful new facility and the similarities that Houston has with Temple, which are many. When I first heard that Temple was considering a football stadium,  oh, about 50 or so years ago, I found the idea more than intriguing but necessary.

The Owls were nomads at the time, playing at a sub-standard stadium, the Vet, or at the tail end of their long-term relationship in Mount Airy. Then, the Owls talked about building a 35,000-seat indoor football/basketball complex on the site of Wilkie-Buick, and that’s probably what should have happened. The Owls would have solved two problems, football and basketball, and dealt with the community and the city once, not twice.

“There’s the games-are-at-the-(pro stadium)
excuse, so there’s no college environment,
and if UH just moves games to campus,
things will be fine. … then there’s
the neighborhood-isn’t-safe excuse.
And the traffic-sucks excuse.
Don’t forget the problems-with-parking,
or there’s-not-enough-good-spaces
-for-tailgating excuses.”
Sound familiar?
It’s Houston, not TU

Now, the Owls are in a half-billion dollar palace just seven miles south of the campus with a dedicated subway stop at each end taking as many students who want to attend games door-to-door.

There are a lot of things to consider about a new stadium, and chief among them, is the question about it solving all or most of the program’s current ills. There are a couple of working studies to consider and one is the 15-year Liacouras Center history. In the years since the LC was built, Fran Dunphy had the team winning three-straight A10 titles and there were plenty of seats to be had in those years. You can complain all you want about Dunphy, but when he gives you three-straight league titles and that arena comes nowhere close to selling out  on a regular basis, you’ve got a fan problem that is deeper than an on-campus facility. Another is Houston’s beautiful stadium, where the Cougars have completed their second season.

In this story, head coach Tom Herman complains about attendance, and the writer cites many of the concerns some Temple fans have about an on-campus stadium. There are a lot of sides to this stadium story, and it’s not all crystal clear.

While l would love to be able to walk from one end of the campus to a football game on the other end of the campus, it’s worth five minutes of your time to read that what happened in Houston wasn’t the be-all or end all it was cracked up to be.

Monday: Anthony Russo’s 2016 Role

Wednesday: The Second Easiest Schedule In College Football

An Open Letter to Gov. Wolf


Dear Gov. Wolf,

Always good to hear from you, as the above letter proves, and I will have to check my calendar to see if I can make dinner.

In the time between breaking bread and now, though, I just wanted to throw out this idea for your consideration. This is one of those rare years that two of the three major Commonwealth of Pennsylvania universities, Temple and Pitt, are playing the other major Commonwealth team, Penn State, in football.

If Penn State beats Pitt on Sept. 10, as I suspect it will, please consider making the Sept. 17 game the first “Governor’s Cup” game. The winner of that game gets a nice trophy, probably donated for free by a place like Spikes in Philadelphia, and you get to present it afterward. This has worked in the past at a smaller level, where the “Mayor’s Cup” went to the winner of the Temple vs. Villanova football game. There is talk of that Cup coming but, but you can get the jump on that with a Governor’s Cup.

At least this season.

It costs the state no money and one of the two teams gets to celebrate a bowl-like experience on the field afterward in the first month of the season and you get to give the trophy. This, of course, will have to remain a secret between you and me (and the readers of this blog) pending a Penn State victory on Sept. 10. If that doesn’t happen, the trophy does not have to be awarded. Just something to chew over between now and our dinner.

See you soon, err, hopefully.

Mike Gibson

The Turner Field Solution


Georgia State will take over Turner Field  and configure it for football (below).

If you accept the premise, as I have, that this whole stadium deal will be long and dragged out, then it becomes acceptable to look at long-term stadium solutions that do not involve an on-campus facility.


Someone two weeks ago mentioned Chester and then Dave last week mentioned Camden and those are bad options, and not entirely because they are crime-ridden towns that start with the letter C.  There really are no good public transportation options that get fans from the campus to either Chester or Camden or get those same fans back to campus after a night game.

So both of those places are out, but if the Philadelphia Phillies were to do what the Atlanta Braves did—get rid of a perfectly good modern stadium for a more perfect and modern stadium—than a Citizens Bank Park reconfigured for football would be a perfect backup plan.

Georgia State is moving into Turner is not crazy to suggest that one day Temple might move into Citizens Bank Park because the Owls have transportation options there and it does offer the relative size range (42-45K) they are looking for. Plus, if they buy CBP, they could keep the concessions and the parking and still offer their fans a great game day experience. That all depends on the Phillies moving out, though, probably not likely.

Did anyone, though, see the Braves leaving Turner Field even seven years ago? Probably not.

Turner Field, a perfectly good modern stadium that was opened in 1996, will be abandoned by the Braves next season for a new $600 million stadium in Cobb County. It opened seven years before Citizens Bank Park opened and, just maybe, seven years down the road, the Phillies could be in the market for a new stadium—and maybe one of the affluent suburban counties will give the Phillies the same kind of sweetheart deal Cobb County gave the Braves.

With all of the red tape Temple has to face with an on-campus stadium, waiting seven years to take over CBP might not be the worst option of all.

Thursday: An Open Letter to Gov. Wolf


Paying Temple Forward


Letter from Bruce Arians I found two days ago.

Letter from Bruce Arians I found two days ago.

When you make two or three moves like I have, you have a tendency to throw a lot of things into a box and leave them there.

The thought occurred to me that the house I have is slightly too large I and might like to downsize, like my friend, Steve Conjar, whose birthday is today, did so the first step in this long process is to clear out some of the boxes, which necessitated saying goodbye to a lot of good things that I had been holding onto a bit too long.

Temple Owls Bruce Arians

Bruce wearing best TU cap ever.

One thing where I won’t comprise is my Temple football stuff. A good doctor from South Carolina, Jim, once send me a lot of great Temple football memorabilia and I put that away in a drawer with a plan to take photos of it and put it on here eventually and leave it in cyberspace long after I am gone (which hopefully will not be soon).

A couple of days ago, though, I came across a bit of Temple football memorabilia I thought I might have tossed and it was like seeing an old friend again after all these years. It was a letter I received from Bruce Arians, who was then the Temple head coach.

Found the above photo accompanying this post in my basement. At the time, I  working on a story about Central Bucks West players going to college late in the recruiting process and asked  then head coach Mike Pettine Sr. where Dick Beck was going to school. “Either West Chester or Towson,” Mike said. My response was a loud: “WHATTTTT???” and then told Mike, “that ain’t happening.” Put Bruce on Beck and the rest was history for the sole captain of the 1990 (7-4) Owls.


Beck was without a doubt the best pulling guard I have ever seen playing high school ball, but just a little undersized for most D-1A schools. Sent a letter to Bruce, who asked for Dick’s film, and Bruce was sold on Dick’s film and offered him a scholarship.

Bruce became a two-time (probably should have won it three times) NFL Coach of the Year and Dick Beck became a state champion head coach at North Penn after being the only captain of the 1990 (7-4) Owls, who should have gone to a bowl game.

Beck paid Temple forward with kicker Brandon McManus, and I have no doubt Brandon one day will pay Temple forward somehow, someway.

It is sometimes amazing the ancillary benefits that spring cleaning can bring.

Tuesday: The Turner Field Solution

Spoiling Joe’s Party


Go ahead, try to explain this: Sue Paterno is planning some kind of “family celebration” on Sept. 17 marking Joe Paterno’s first game as head coach.

The university is denying any kind of sponsorship of this event, but this seems clear: Temple will have a chance to spoil some kind of party because that is the day the Owls travel to Penn State. It also marks the 50th year of Paterno’s first game as head coach, coming on Sept. 17, 1966 against Maryland.


Joe before TU game in 1950

Whatever your feelings are about Joe Paterno knowing or not knowing what Jerry Sandusky did (I vote yes, for reasons to be outlined further down this post), this is definitely a celebration that needs to be toasted with the sour taste of a Blue and White defeat. There is some good news ahead for Temple fans. As confident as I was in the Owls losing to Toledo in December, that’s how confident I am in the Owls beating Penn State again.

For these reasons:

  • Confidence coming from blowout wins over Army and Stony Brook. Plenty of Owls will get playing time and those two wins should be able to get immensely talented players like Greg Webb and Karamo Dioubate up to speed.
  • A four-year starting quarterback vs. a rookie. This is P.J. Walker’s year and he is not going to be upstaged by someone who could not beat out Christian Hackenberg. Walker clearly outplayed the New York Jets’ quarterback a year ago and goes from being a game manager to a star this season.
  • Phil Snow has the formula to beat PSU. Snow tried the three-man rushes two years ago but now knows that constant pressure is the way to keep the Nittany Lions off balance.
  • Temple will be supremely motivated. The Owls have been hearing all year that the only reason they won was because  was because Saquon Barkley had only 1 carry. PSU fans conveniently forget that carry was a 1-yard loss.
  • Penn State will be trying too hard. Revenge will be on the Staters’ minds, but the pressing that comes with it will cause fumbles and interceptions.
  • Temple has weapons all over the place. With Ryquell Armstead at running back and Jahad Thomas at slot receiver, Kip Patton and Colin Thompson at tight end and Adonis Jennings and Ventell Bryant at wide receiver, the Owls can finally use the “shell game” offense—that is, spreading the ball around to a number of guys who can make explosive plays downfield.  It might not be 27-10 again, but it could be 24-7 or even 34-10.


In Paterno’s first year as an assistant, 1950, his team tied Temple, 7-7. He was Rip Engle’s only assistant and, that year, learned to be a micro-manager, a trait that he carried with him through his later years. He had to know Jerry Sandusky was a bad hombre because he facilitated  Sandusky’s exit at a time when defensive coordinators just do not retire. That only made sense after the scandal hit the fan.

If any party deserves to be pooped, it is this one, and the Owls are just the team to do it.

Sunday: Paying Temple Forward

Tuesday: The Turner Field Solution