There are a lot of people who live in a fantasy world who believe that a team without a significant fan base and no bowl tie-in is going to somehow magically appear in a bowl if it becomes qualified because of things like TV ratings and conference affiliations.
Count me out of that group.
There’s plenty to play for, though, tonight when Temple travels to Tulane (7:30). The game is on a real ESPN network (the duece), not ESPN3 or ESPN News or ESPNU so there will be a significant potential audience out there. The Owls will be playing to avoid a third-straight losing season and that is important.
There is just not a bowl game on the line.
Temple is not going to a bowl game with a win on Saturday, even if it is a 63-point effort like the one it had three years ago in West Point. Temple’s elimination game was two weeks ago, not today, and the Owls rolled out an uninspired offensive game plan against Cincinnati that belied that sense of urgency. Forget the calls for a play-action passing game and some semblance of a running game. Why didn’t Temple even TRY to use a slippery punt returner like Nate L. Smith instead of John Christopher to at least artificially pump some juice into the team?
Temple got zero yards from its punt return game … again. It got nothing from its run game … again.
Those are two things fans should hope at least are addressed tonight.
Temple’s bowl chances might have been dashed before the season even started when American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco “sold” the rights to the conference’s sixth bowl tie-in to none other than CUSA. It was a monumental blunder.
The irony of this is dripping. Temple’s 8-4 team did not get into a bowl because the MAC had too few tie-ins and its 6-6 team will not get into a bowl because conferences like the MAC and CUSA have too many. This kind of stuff happens only to Temple. You cannot make this stuff up. Temple’s major reason for leaving the MAC was getting more opportunities for a bowl and now the conference they go to sell a bowl where Temple would have appeared.
Any Temple fans up for a couple of winter days in the Bahamas? Sorry, we sold that bowl.
In the same category was UCF’s miracle win over ECU on Thursday night. Temple had a slight chance of backing into the fifth tie-in if Memphis moved up to a BCS game but, for that to happen, Memphis would have had to win the league outright and Fresno State would have had to knock Boise State out in the Mountain West title game. A head-scratching UCF Hail Mary allowed UCF to share the title with Memphis and eliminated even that sliver of Temple hope.
So, in a sense, Temple was beaten again by a Hail Mary pass, leaving winning tonight and at least some momentum into next season as the best the Owls can reasonably hope to accomplish.
Even given that, only a backroom Hail Mary in a smoke-filled room on Bowl Selection Sunday can extend this season beyond today and those kind of plays never go Temple’s way.