If you do a search for “settled law” on google most of the results revolve around the Roe v. Wade decision which gave women the right to abortion in certain cases. In a broader sense it is used to refer to decisions of the Supreme Court that have remained unchanged for a long time. Roe vs. Wade is not “in the constitution” as Whoopi Goldberg once moronically said, it’s just an interpretation of the constitution that can be changed.
In the court of public opinion, though, the results of the last two bowl games have resolved what might have been hotly contested cases among Temple football fans, maybe forever.
Which team is the greatest Temple team of all time, the 1979 Owls, who went 10-2 or the 2015 or 2016 Owls, who also won 10 games?
It’s not his fault, really, but Matt Rhule himself is as responsible for the tarnished legacy of those teams as he was for their success. Rhule, by his own admission, took it “too easy” on the Owls prior to the loss to Toledo and his quick exit to find Acres of Diamonds in Waco led to a poorly prepared team in a 34-26 loss to Wake Forest. There is no doubt that if Rhule had put the pedal to the metal one year and told Baylor he would talk to them after Christmas, the last two Owl teams would have finished in the top 25.
The legacy of the two most recent teams will always be as great ones, but it won’t be as the greatest. To me, it isn’t even close and it is “Settled Law” because the 1979 team did it against a more difficult schedule and beat a Power 5 team (before the Power 5 even existed) in California at the Garden State Bowl.
Now, had the 2016 team won its bowl game and gone 11-3 and beaten a Power 5 team, they might have had a strong case but it would have been close. The Wake Forest team they would have beaten would not have been as good as the 1979 Cal Bears and they would have had to pummel them to enhance the case.
That 1979 team was also 16 points short of being unbeaten, losing only to No. 7 Pitt (10-9) and No. 20 Penn State (22-7). Had the Owls pulled out those two winnable games, they would have been—hold on to your hats—national champions. Or at least they would have been placed into a better bowl, against the eventual national champion of that year.
Spoiler alert: Alabama.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
In those days, there was no discrimination between the haves and the have-nots in college football. If you won all of your games, you were national champions, period, end of story. It was college football in its purest form, not the corrupt form it now flaunts.
Does a future Owl team have a chance of finishing No. 17 or better? Sure, but what are the chances such a team loses its coach by bowl time? Probably very good. It’s not quite in the constitution, it’s settled law.
As it was, the Owls finished No. 17 in both major polls and, unless the rules change forbidding a coach from leaving—or even negotiating with another team—until after the bowl season is completed, it is hard to imagine any team ever matching what those Temple kids did in 1979.
Even if most of those kids are pushing 60 now.
Monday: Handicapping the 2017 QBs
Wednesday: The Spring Game