Recalibrating Expectations

Matt Rhule says the Owls can regroup and make a run for the AAC title. I pray he’s right and we’re wrong.

Just when they lost me, they reeled me back in on Saturday.

No, not the Temple Owls, who lost a game they should have won that day, but two groups of guys who played later in the day who might have proven Temple is a little better than I expected.

The Army West Point Knights and the Stony Brook Seawolves, who opened some eyes with pretty shocking performances a few hours after most Owl fans were bummed by the result in State College. They indicated that Temple might have played two very good teams before a subpar effort against PSU.

Army won at UTEP, 66-19, while Stony Brook took down No. 2 FCS Richmond, 42-14. Both were impressive wins for a number of reasons. Army was unstoppable on the road at a FBS team that won by 15 over another FBS team, New Mexico State, two weeks ago. Stony Brook, a team that was shut out by Temple, scored 42 points on a team that beat Power 5 Virginia, 37-20, in the first week of the season on the road. (UConn beat Virginia by a field goal on Saturday.)

So any recalibration of TEMPLE expectations has to include the total body of work, including the Army and Stony Brook games. There is also the distinct possibility that Penn State, Stony Brook and Army all finish with very good years so that has to be factored into a Temple recalibration.

unfinished

First the bad news because going into this season, I wrote that this was the team that had the best chance of breaking the Temple school record of 10 wins and finish with 11 wins. I wrote that expectation should be the MINIMUM expectation, with the maximum expectation that the team achieve its own stated goal of “Unfinished Business” which, to them, meant winning the overall AAC title.

I don’t think that is going to happen, not just based on the first three Temple games but because Houston has separated itself from the rest of the league. For Temple to get to 11 wins, it would have to win out and I also do not think that is going to happen, either.

Now, the good news because this season can still be a  success if the Owls can get to 10 wins again including a bowl win over a P5 team and that remains a realistic possibility. Hell, if that P5 team is Penn State,  I will sign for that game now.

Here’s how I see the rest of the season playing out:

Saturday: Temple 48, Charlotte 7. Charlotte is not only worse than Stony Brook, it is much worse. Charlotte allowed 70 points to Louisville and, while that is no disgrace, being beaten by Eastern Michigan, 37-19, is.

10/1: Temple 35, SMU 21. The Mustangs struggled to beat Jerry Falwell’s school, Liberty, on Saturday. No amount of praying will help them against Temple. 3-2.

10/6: Temple 21, Memphis 14. I had this as a win prior to the season, as a loss after Penn State and now as a win after the Army and Stony Brook results, but it is not going to be easy on the road. Memphis beat Kansas, which is probably a whole lot worse than Penn State and Army. 4-2.

10/15: Temple 28, UCF 19. This won’t be the blowout it was against an 0-12 UCF team last year, but if UCF can go from 0-12 to beat a 10-win Temple team, the Owls have got more problems than I think they do. 5-2.

10/21: South Florida 31, Temple 27. South Florida is, quite simply, a better team than Penn State and Phil Snow has two blind spots in his rear view mirror—the triple option and the dual-threat quarterback. Unless he spies Champ Chandler on Quinton Flowers, he is about to move into that left lane and get clobbered by that Mack Truck. Since Snow never follows our advice, mark USF down as a loss and no AAC title game this year. 5-3. (USF beat Syracuse by 22 and a poor NIU team, 48-17.)

10/29: Temple 24, Cincinnati 17.  Tommy Tuberville is beginning to show his coaching age with some strange calls on the field. The Owls will take this into the fourth quarter and finish him off. 6-3. (Cincy beat Purdue, but was hammered by Houston, 40-16.)

11/4: Temple 36, UConn 10: Temple beat Stony Brook, 38-0, which beat Richmond, 42-14. Richmond beat Virginia, 37-20. UConn beat Virginia, 13-10. While you usually cannot go on comparative scores, those margins are so stark they show there is a huge talent and speed gap between the Owls and the Huskies. UConn also barely beat a Maine team (in OT) that lost to Toledo, 45-3. 7-3. (UConn also lost to Navy in a close one.)

11/19: Temple 10, Tulane 3: Unless the Owls party hard on Bourbon Street, the defense shuts the Green Wave down.  8-3. (Tulane lost to Navy, 21-14.)

11/26: Temple 24, East Carolina 21: Not easy, but the Owls finish strong. 9-3. (East Carolina beat North Carolina State and lost to South Carolina.)

Since I do not think it will be good enough to even get in the championship game, the best the Owls can do is win the bowl game they are assigned to—they probably will not get a choice—and finish with consecutive 10-win season.

I hope they prove me wrong and run the table, and at least host the AAC title game, but concerns on the offensive and defensive lines make me doubt they will ever finish the Unfinished Business they had in mind when they thought of that slogan.

Wednesday: The End of An Era

Friday: A Meh Homecoming

 

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14 thoughts on “Recalibrating Expectations

  1. ‘Unfinished business’ to me smacks of the old Sixers slogan ‘we owe you one’ which haunted them for years. This is a .500 team in a mediocre conference. We win seven games this year due largely to the aenemic schedule we face. I don’t see this team winning nine under any scenario.

    That PSU game was a fluky bounce on a punt and a horrid pass away from a (blue and) whitewashing. Army handled us easily and stony brook was a team we would have lost to in the dark old days but I believe we’re past that level of ineptitude. I do think this team will have some bright spots but will also have some lumpy days.

    • While I think I might be too high with nine regular-season wins, I think seven is too low. It might rest on eight. These AAC teams we are playing are not as good as the aac teams we COULD be playing (Navy, Houston). Memphis has a new coach and we all know the growing pains involved in a new coach. Tuberville has lost his mojo. Last week on the Stony Brook board, they were saying Richmond would destroy Temple. Err, I don’t think so.

    • Not as bad as you think. The Owls shut a good team down several times in the red zone and scored a couple of times themselves. Erase the penalties, the Owls win. They were the better team in the second half at least from my seat and they did have the blue and white faithful nervous.

  2. Mike, I hope the rest of the season plays out at least how you’ve laid it out, I’m thinking there may be one more loss somewhere on that list. Maybe some of the recalibration of expectations also needs to be done beyond this season as well. This program is clearly not not in the same atmosphere as Houston and I’m beginning to think it never will be. Right now Rhule seems to be a good not great recruiter, a large number of comments on the other boards are focused on the level of talent on the team and even you last paragraph alludes to that. I think a small example of that is the 2014 recruiting class offensive linemen, not 1 of the 3 recruited that year seem to be close to being ready to move up to the first team. As for game day coaching, he still has some shortcomings but he is probably better than most who have held that position at Temple in recent years and he does seem to be improving. I think the real issue on game day may be with the coordinators.

    The other area where we are not at or I feel won’t get to the level of Houston is the attitude of the administration, as has been said here that “meh, we’re ok with good enough”.

    So the question is was last season something that we can expect maybe every 4 years or so with a 50 to 60% winning percentage the norm. That’s certainly a lot better than what we experienced in the 90s but I also think it will pretty much solidify Temple as a mid-tier team for the future and we can stop focusing on a P5 invite

    • You can talk about championships all you want, but when you swing and miss on offensive line recruiting (like we seem to have done), an overall AAC championship is probably out of reach. Houston started three freshmen OL against us because they hit on three recruits and they all played well. I don’t want to hear this excuse “well, they are in Texas.” Temple is a one-day’s drive from 50 percent of the nation’s population in a world class city where applications to the school are at an all-time high. It should be able to mine three good offensive lineman from that population density.

      • Good point about Houston. I know folks will say those freshman started in the championship game out of need rather than plan but they still managed to dominate our senior laden, solid d-line. Right now we seem a lot better recruiting at the skill positions than lineman

  3. We’ll see how good Houston is against Louisville and Navy. Oklahoma is a bust and not as good as predicted and Cincy was in the game til the very end when their offense just collapsed. Houston also has to hope that Ward stays healthy. He’s already dinged up.

  4. John, Louisville just demolished FSU, #2 at the time. The UL/Houston game should be a barnburner. Nobody in the AAC will come close to Houston. I think ECU might be a loss Mike. A lot depends on injuries as the season progresses also for all teams. The biggest thing right now is to cut way down on those stupid penalties we saw Saturday – just ridiculous. We really could have beaten PSU except for that. Reminded me of the bad ol days. But 7-8 wins is certainly doable with a bowl game. As far as expectations go, that will be good enough for me. It will continue a line of success rarely seen at Temple and be the first back to back bowls. Keep those expectations reasonable and we won’t get so disappointed and we’ll feel ok (at least) with high level mediocrity (which is better than we’ve had in a long time).

  5. Mike – your rest of the season prediction is not aligned with the reality of the first three games.

    there are 12 teams in the AAC, we are 12th in Total Offense, 12th in Rushing Offense, and 9th in scoring. If you check P5 and C-USA stats, the teams that are last in their conference in Total Offense are one of the worst teams in the conference.

    the sad reality, our offense is terrible; USF, ECU, MEM, CIN, and UCONN are all getting better efficiency from the QB position..,

    I love #8, great kid.., isn’t it time to put the future of Temple on the field?

    • I think Temple has played the only FCS team with two top 20 FCS wins and destroyed them. Army might win nine games and it would have been eight if Phil Snow had a clue about stopping a triple option. Penn State? Hard to tell. Pitt hung with a preseason top 25 team (Oklahoma State) and PSU hung with them. Maybe Penn State is better than we thought. I certainly like their quarterback and running back better than the ones they had against us last year. I think that’s a bowl team, even with a tough Big 10 schedule. Really upsets me that we will find out nothing about Temple with this Charlotte game. Much rather be playing BC or Syracuse right now. This is the least attractive Temple football schedule I can ever remember.

    • KJ, with those stats and if that kind of performance continues you may sway e more towards your thinking in your post under the 9/17 article with regards to considering replacing the coaching staff if the drop off from last season is severe. We know that is not going to happen so let’s hope things start moving in the right direction this season. Have seen enough of Uconn to say that stats can be deceiving, their offense is pedestrian at best and they were one UVA timeout of starting the season 1-2 and have not been overly impressed with Sheriffs Plus talk about bone head game day coaching, Diaco seems to specialize in that. Memphis at this point in the season has probably played a considerably weaker schedule than Temple

      • you may be right.., basing future actions on present facts has always served me well.., we are the worst offense in the conference after three games, and are in serious trouble if we don’t move up a minimum of three spots after Saturday…, totally dead in the water if we remain the worst offense.., not sure how anyone can rationalize otherwise

    • Wow, after three games you are ready to put an unproven player in at the controls. Unreal, I read your posts and say you have a serious thinking disorder. Walker did not play well against Army and Stony Brook but he acquitted himself quite nicely versus PSU. Walker needs Thomas in the lineup and in the backfield , he opens everything up offensively.

  6. I think a lot of our problem stems from poor game-planning. Pitt gouged Penn State for 347 yards and we have the best back in the AAC and we don’t even try to establish the run. P.J. Walker threw for 286, but had Thomas and company run the ball 35 times (the same amount of passes P.J. threw) we would have gotten a lot closer to 286 running, controlled some clock, and made the PSU defense (whose starters were dropping like flies) gassed. This coaching staff has had me scratching my head for four of the last five games. Cannot win by talent alone. Must be smart with these game plans.

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