There is nothing like the start of the season in any sport and Temple head coach Matt Rhule might have said it best: “There is not a team on our schedule we cannot beat and there is not a team on our schedule who can’t beat us.”
In picking the outcome of this season, I’m taking the King Solomon Approach—splitting that schedule baby in half and coming up with six wins, six losses. That should get the Owls back to the Military Bowl, where my prediction is that they won’t have a rematch with any of the military academies (Navy is going to be the only one making a bowl and the Mids will opt for a more high-profile one).
I want a rematch with Rutgers but doubt the Scarlet Knights will win six games.
Here are my Owl predictions:
Thursday, Aug. 28, at Vandy
I see this one going pretty much the same way the UCLA game went in the Eagle Bank Bowl. The Owls scratch and claw for the lead most of the game but, in the end, five years of Power 5 Conference recruiting catches up to them. Commodores salt the game away by with a Patton Robinette quarterback sneak on fourth and inches. “We thought about going to a shotgun handoff but coach (Derek Mason) talked me out of it,” offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell said. “I don’t want to use all the words he said, but he asked me if I was bleeping nuts but he didn’t say bleeping.” Vandy, 31-21.
Saturday, Sept. 6 Navy
Biggest game of the season and Navy will win nine games but this will not be one of them. Temple DC Phil Snow is not good at defending three wides, but very adept at devising methods to stop the triple option. Key play: A 99-yard kickoff return for a score by Khalif Herbin revisiting memories of a similar play by James Nixon in the 2009 win at Navy. Key block in that one was provided by Matt Falcone. Key block in this one will be by John Christopher. Temple, 21-16.
Saturday, Sept. 20 Delaware State
Temple takes advantage of five Hornet turnovers in a 24-7 win. “Fordham taught us to never be overconfident,” Rhule says, holding the game ball.
Saturday, Sept. 27 at UConn
Austin Jones kicks the game-winning field goal in overtime as ESPN’s Kevin Neghandi, a Temple grad, is in attendance. Kenny Harper runs the ball straight up the middle for three straight plays after Nate L. Smith picks off a pass. “I wanted to put the ball in the middle of the field, that was my strategy,” Rhule said. “I said the best kicker in college football is going to have to win the game for Temple and he did.” Temple, 17-14, in OT. UConn players are quoted after the game as saying they have a strong feeling of de ja vu.
Saturday, Oct. 11 Tulsa
The last time Tulsa visited South Philadelphia it came away with a 15-10 win over a Bruce Arians’ coached Temple team. The results were reversed this time. Temple, 15-10. After the game, the Tulsa Chancellor fires head coach Bill Blakenship, saying “losing to Temple is unacceptable.” When asked to comment, Temple President Neil D.Theobald says: “Who the bleep are they to talk that kind of bleep about us?” An instant AAC rivalry is born.
Friday, Oct. 17 at Houston
Houston coach Adam Levine dinks and dunks Temple all the way down the field on slant patterns over the middle. “Last year, their strategy was to keep us in front of them, let us make the catch, but take away the big plays,” Levine said. “We figured they’d do the same. We bled them to death.” Houston, 38-24.
Saturday, Oct. 25 at UCF
Without Blake Bortles, UCF relied on ball control and its defense to win a slugfest. “What happened to No. 19?” George O’Leary said, referring to Temple wide receiver Robbie Anderson. “That kid killed us last year.” When told Anderson flunked out of school, O’Leary shook his head. “Our kids don’t even go to class in the fall.” UCF, 19-12.
Saturday, Nov. 1 East Carolina
East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden wins a passing war with P.J. Walker. Temple and East Carolina fan Winkel spends the first half on the Temple side of the field and the second half on the Pirate side. “The difference was my receivers held onto the ball and his dropped it,” Carden said. East Carolina, 36-30.
Friday, Nov. 7 Memphis
Tight end Romond DeLoatch catches three touchdowns over the middle as Temple rolls to a 41-12 win. “That was open for Chris Coyer and we thought it would be open for Romond, too,” Rhule said. “Fortunately, we were right.”
Saturday, Nov. 15 at Penn State
One hundred and six thousand Penn State fans cheer as Christian Hackenberg toys with the Temple secondary. Nits’ defense driven nuts by Walker, though, and Temple comes back from a 28-7 deficit in the second half to tie the game, but lose, 59-49. “My bad,” James Franklin said. “I should have run the ball with a 28-7 lead. You cannot give this Walker kid eight second-half possessions and that almost cost us the game.”
Saturday, Nov. 29 Cincy
Tommy Tuberville comes out in three wides and throws sideline patterns down the field that cause the Owls fits. “We saw what Houston did, but we thought we’d use the out pattern instead of the slants in the middle of the field,” Tuberville said. “For some reason, their DBs play the man and not the ball. Fortunately for us because Gunner (Kiel) put it up for grabs and they could have had at least three pick 6s. They gave us 5 yards every time we wanted it.” Cincinnati, 31-24.
Saturday, Dec. 6 at Tulane
With a bowl game on the line, Tyler Matakevich gathers the defense around him and gives an impassioned speech at halftime with the game tied at 7-7. “I’ve never lost to f-ing Tulane in my life before and I’m not going to start losing to f-ing Tulane now,” Matakevich said. Owls cheer wildly, pounding their helmets on the gold floor of the new Tulane stadium locker room and play the defensive game of the year in the second half, shutting the Green Wave out on the way to a 21-7 win. “I didn’t mention that I never played Tulane,” Matakevich grinned. “I didn’t think it was important at the time.”
Sunday, Dec. 7—bowl selection Sunday party at the LC, 6 p.m.