The key will be avoiding the letdowns that ailed TU last year.
In the closing months of a losing battle, Democratic primary contender Bernie Sanders told supporters that he was “good at math” but assured them that he still saw “a narrow path” to the nomination. Due to circumstances beyond his control (super delegates), that narrow path turned out to be as small as the eye of a needle.
So, too, it is for Temple’s path to the national championship game. Even folks who are good at math can see it’s a narrow path for Temple, but it’s a path nonetheless and it might be larger than the eye of a needle. The reality is that if both Houston and the Owls go 12-0 during the regular season, and Temple beats the Cougars in the title game, it would be extremely difficult to keep Temple out of a four-team playoff—especially if Penn State beats Pitt and has an upper-tier season in the Big 10.
- Adrian Sullivan beating out last year’s starter, Brian Carter, at RG; Logan Marchi earning a second team QB tie with Frank Nutile; Marshall Ellick beating out Ventell Bryant at WR and Brodrick Yancy earning a No. 1 at WR; On defense, freshman and special teams star William Kwenkeu earning a backup LB spot and true freshman Benny Walls doing the same at SS.
In that scenario, Houston would own a win over a team picked to win the Big 12 title and Temple would hold a road win against a Big 10 contender. If Penn State does the impossible and wins the Big 10, then the Owls would be shoe-ins for a four-team playoff but that’s probably asking for a bit much.
On this perfect day to open the season, maybe the Owls will finish perfect but that’s a lot of gravy to ask for because they had their head-scratching moments a year ago (USF, SMU in a win, Toledo) and lost four of their last seven. That’s been the pattern for long-time Temple football fans, even in good seasons, since 1982.
After Wayne Hardin’s tenure, even good Temple football seasons have gone like this: Beat someone you are not supposed to beat (Wisconsin, 1990) and lose to someone who are not supposed to lose to (Wyoming, 1990). The pattern repeated itself under Al Golden (UConn win and Ohio loss, 2010), Steve Addazio (Maryland win, Bowling Green loss, 2011) and Matt Rhule (Memphis win, Idaho and Fordham losses, 2013).
That pattern did not exist in Wayne Hardin’s best years, especially 1979 when the Owls only lost to two ranked teams, Pitt and Penn State, and the average margin of those two losses was eight points. No one on the current schedule, including Penn State, will probably be ranked and there is no reason why Temple has to repeat that pattern this season.
The key, of course, to break it and we have not seen it done in 30 years. I’ve said a few months ago that this team is more than capable of breaking the school record of 10 wins with 11, and that’s the minimum acceptable benchmark.
Anything else will be gravy and I like gravy.
Tomorrow: Game Analysis
Monday: What’s New?