Every once in a while, it’s a useful exercise to step outside the box and view what other people are seeing.
Perspective is important. A year ago at this time we were incredulous that a lot of people had written Temple off, saying “Temple will take a step back.” We outlined five reasons why 2016 was the step forward year, not the step back one, and cautioned those know-it-all outsiders to not be surprised.
Winning 10 games, plus the AAC title, was that step forward. At the same time, we also wrote in this spot that 2017 would be the “step back” year, but we wrote step, not steps. To me, this team is an 8-9-win team, not a 6-win team, but only time will tell.
One outsider has completely gone off the rails, though, picking the Owls as the 111th-ranked team in the Orlando Sentinel preseason polls.
One-hundred-and-11th (or 12th) is not even six wins, but more like two or three. There was not a lot of thought process involved in that ranking.
Then there is this:
Consider the above a baby step forward. “How many wins in a row will Notre Dame have IF it beats Temple?”
When this series was first announced seven years ago, the word IF would have been laughable but, after the inferior 2015 Owls (compared to the 2016 version) hung with the then No. 9-ranked Irish, it is best for ND fans to take this game more seriously than the 2016 Owls took their opener. Last year’s Temple team beat Navy, 34-10. Navy beat last year’s Notre Dame team.
Plenty of variables for the 2017 Owls make this season harder to predict than the last two, but the defense should be as good or slightly better and the offense should be slightly worse. One is what kind of head coach Geoff Collins will be. You’ve got to assume he won’t be the stumbling bumbler Matt Rhule was his first two seasons. Also if Anthony Russo can just duplicate the first season of P.J. Walker (20 touchdowns, eight interceptions), the Owls should be fine in that area, too. Having covered high school football in Philadelphia for much of the last 30 years, Russo is by far the best talent to come out of this city since Matt Ryan committed to Boston College.
At the end of the regular season the last two years, the Owls were ranked in the Top 25. One-hundred-and-eleven is just dumb, though. In the college football world of recruiting and redshirting, it is impossible to drop from the top 25 to the bottom 15 in just one season.
This team will compete for a third-straight spot in the AAC title game. Whether they can get there with eight wins, as opposed to nine, is a question too hard to answer right now.
Wednesday: Mr. Nice Guy
Friday: Spread This
Monday: 5 Reasons Why The Owls Will Contend