The Magnificent Obsession

logos

Recently, we’ve been accused of “obsessing” with the Notre Dame game.

I plead guilty of this so-called obsession, but I don’t think too much emphasis can be placed upon this one moment in Temple football history.

There are a few reasons:

  • It’s the next game and you take them one at a time. (We’ll probably obsess about Villanova the week before that game.)
  • Most people think Temple will “take a step back” this season. A win over ND would do a lot to debunk that notion.
  • Eyeballs. This game will be on the bar in every tavern in the country.
  • It’s a long walk through the scheduling desert to get to 2024 and that is the next “national” name opponent on the Temple schedule: Oklahoma. While there are some interesting regional opponents, like Boston College and Maryland and Rutgers, none hold the cache of Notre Dame or Oklahoma and probably none will for another seven years.
  • Seven years. That’s a long time. Does Pat Kraft strike you as a person who is seeking rid the Owls of the Bucknells and the Idahos and schedule more national games? I didn’t think so.
  • Nothing would give the Owls credibility with the Joe Philadelphia Subway Alumni fan as beating Notre Dame and this is likely their last shot to do so.

The Owls have done a lot since Al Golden took the job over a decade ago. They have soundly beaten an ACC team (Maryland) and a SEC team (Vanderbilt) and a Big 10 team (Penn State). They’ve been to two AAC title games, winning one. They have not beaten Notre Dame. Beating Notre Dame on NBC National television during the first week of the season and that’s the kind of promotion that money cannot buy—especially if Notre Dame goes on to have a decent season and beat Georgia the next week after losing to the Owls.

Win this one, and a lot of good can come out of it.

So, yeah, it’s a big game.

Obsessing over this game does not mean the other games are unimportant.

So consider this a Magnificent Obsession.

Wednesday: Owls at Media Day

Friday: The Big Uglies

House Money

housemoney

One of the things you always here on sports talk radio is the phrase “the line is telling me something.”

While there might be sound fiscal reasons behind the phrase, there are a couple of things wrong with that reasoning.

Take the Temple football opener at Notre Dame for instance.

The game opened way back in February with the Irish as a 6.5 favorite. Even one of the Notre Dame websites had a headline we published here: “Irish open as ONLY a touchdown favorite over Temple.”

The horror.

It is now 15 points, mostly moved by a John Q. Public that sees the brand “Notre Dame” as good and “Temple” as bad. A century of mostly success on one hand, failure on the other, has set the perception in stone, although in the last decade the Owls have started to chip away at the rock. It’s a big rock and there’s more chipping to do.

That’s the first problem with what the line tells you.

The second is that the people in Vegas cannot know how good or bad either team can be.

Temple is coming off a 10-4 season, while Notre Dame is coming off a 4-8 one. Different schedules for sure, but one of the four losses Temple had was at the Big 10 champion by a touchdown in a game where the Owls had 120 yards in penalties. While many of those yards were self-inflicted, a good number of them were the result of very bad calls—the replay showed Dion Dawkins clearly blocking from the side (legal) on a touchdown pass to Marshall Ellick, a play that was called back due to a block in the back (illegal). Unfortunately, holding calls are not reviewable or the Owls might be the only G5 champion with a win over a P5 champion last year.

That would have done a lot to change the perceptions of the bettors for this game.

Vegas does not know how, say, for sake of argument Anthony Russo or Logan Marchi are because they never took bets on Archbishop Wood or St. Paul’s (Conn.).

Vegas does not know what Collins’ famed “Mayhem” defense will look like.

They could find out on Sept. 2. (In all fairness, either way.)

That’s why another betting phrase comes to mind first when thinking about how the Owls play in this one.

House Money.

Notre Dame has more to lose and will play tighter than Temple, which will take this loosey goosey attitude into the game. Whether that leads to more fumbles and interceptions going Temple’s way is yet to be determined but that’s one thing the line cannot tell you today.

So, right now, 53 days before the game, no matter how loud that line yells in your ear, the best policy is not to listen.

Wednesday: Marketing Mayhem

After ND, Temple’s Non-Conference Games Lack Juice For Years

golden

It would be sweet if the Owls unveiled the traditional football brand at ND.

Attention Temple fans: It’s a long way from here to Oklahoma, and we mean in more ways than one.

In between now and the 2024 game in Norman, it’s slim pickings for Temple fans in terms of non-conference games.

There will be some attractive matchups against AAC foes, but those conference games can get monotonous at times.

As far as juice—a word invoked by head coach Geoff Collins a lot—there is the game at Notre Dame on September 3, and that’s really it.

Then, as far as non-conference games goes, there’s a lot of walking through the desert before getting to that other Oasis in 2024.

future

There’s the taste of water in South Bend in September, and a lot of parched throats in between.

That is, unless games against Idaho, UMass, Bucknell and Buffalo whet your appetite.

(We didn’t think so.)

That adds to the meaning of the Notre Dame game and makes it the Owls’ Game of the Century, especially if they can pull it out and the Irish and Owls go on to have a decent season. (Hey, Army beat Temple in the opener and the Owls still went on to a decent season, so Notre Dame can do the same as well.)

The game is important for a couple of reasons. One, it’s Notre Dame and it’s on national TV. Two, Notre Dame is in talks with the ACC to become an all-sports member. If those talks lead to anything, the ACC might need a 16th team to balance two divisions and, should Temple win, it would focus the spotlight on the nation’s largest available media market.

That’s a lot of assumptions, but that doesn’t erase the fact that Temple has had big-time games in the not-so-recent past (Penn State the last two years and Notre Dame in 2015) and will go many years after this one before getting a non-conference foe as juicy as its next one.

So fill up your canteens in South Bend, Temple fans. It’s a long walk in the desert after that.

Friday: The Quotemeister General

TV Ratings Should Woo P5 Suitors to TU

Temple was a winner both at the box office an on TV.

Temple was a winner both at the box office an on TV.

If it is possible to win in a loss, that’s exactly what Temple football did for the university in a prime time game against Notre Dame on Saturday night.

The scoreboard numbers gave the Irish a 24 and the Owls a 20, but the ratings in that nearly four-hour, real-life drama made Temple the big winner. Notre Dame has appeared on prime-time Saturday night television in Philadelphia 93 other times and in some big games against inter-sectional foes like Penn State and USC. During none of those times did the Fighting Irish  capture anywhere near the ratings as they did against Temple. In fact, the Temple vs. Notre Dame was the No. 1-rated TV game ever in the history of Philadelphia college football-watching.

Since Notre Dame has been on so much without nearly that many sets tuned in, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to know the variable in this case was Temple. The Owls showed they can deliver the nation’s fourth-largest TV market to any possible Power 5 suitors. Philadelphia is the largest current media market without a Power 5 team.

It was also the highest-rated college football game of the week and beat by 26 percent the ratings in the same Week 9 slot a year ago which featured Penn State, the second-most popular team on Philadelphia TV sets, against No. 1 Ohio State.

What this all means is that, one of the Power 5 conferences decides to expand, the fact that Temple has proven it can deliver the nation’s last major market should get at least the ACC and the Big 12 knocking on AD Pat Kraft’s door.

Turning the Page

That looks like double coverage on Will Fuller. Two things: Why wasn’t the primary corner closer to Fuller and why did the safety help make no attempt to jump to knock the ball down?

So close, yet so far away.

Turning the page on this one is going to be hard, because it’s quite possible that this was the best chapter in the book.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Temple players awoke this morning with many pats on the back, but I’m sure what Matt Rhule said last night is going to carry much more weight than anything written here but it needs to be repeated: There is no such thing as a moral victory.

It would have been nice to see Temple run the table, go 13-0, and leave the college football playoff committee to complete the messy task of screwing the Owls out of a Final Four playoff spot. That opportunity will not present itself because one of the best defenses in the country failed to make a play against one of the best offensives in the country in the final three minutes.

Make no mistake, the committee would have screwed Temple because the Power 5 conferences have imposed a set of standards on the Group of 5 that are impossible to achieve. A P5 officiating crew from the ACC was there, not a G5 one.bestever

I will put this Temple loss in the same box with the 10-9 loss to No. 1 Pitt in 1979 and the 10-7 loss to eventual No. 1 Penn State in 1978. Good, but not good enough. After those games, there was the feeling that Temple would come back the next year and make the next step and win one. Next year never came. Who knows when Temple will ever be placed in a position to win one of these games again?

“I thought our kids overcame a lot of things, and I’m proud of them,” Rhule said. That was the politically correct way of saying three of the four pass interference calls on Temple were completely bogus. That looked like double coverage on Will Fuller. Two things: Why wasn’t the primary corner closer to Fuller and why did the safety help make no attempt to jump to knock the ball down?

One possible conclusion is the two were spooked on Halloween by those earlier calls.

Rhule was right about everything he said last night and now it’s time to turn the page. It’s a worthwhile book that deserves a happy ending but the facts are it won’t be The Great American Novel it could have been.

How sweet would it have been to have picked up that ball out of Kizer’s hand and run it in with no time left?

5 Examples That It Can Be Done

The calm before the storm at Lincoln Financial Field.

The calm before the storm at Lincoln Financial Field.

It’s truly amazing to watch the comments of all of these Notre Dame fans, who think the mere suggestion of Temple winning tonight’s game is not only implausible, but impossible. How soon they have forgotten these five recent games. Arguably, these are five teams with lesser resumes of Temple that proved capable of beating ND. Will Temple join this list? Don’t know, but amnesia can  be a terrible thing.

irishweather

The documented history:

Nov. 15, 2014: Northwestern 43, Notre Dame 40

A Northwestern team that finished 5-7 would walk into Notre Dame and come away with a 43-40 win over the Fighting Irish. The Irish finished last season with an 8-5 record, beating LSU, 31-28, in the Music City Bowl. Temple already has more wins than Northwestern had all of last season, so the Owls winning should not be too much of a shock.

Nov. 9, 2013: Pitt 28, Notre Dame 21

The Panthers broke a four-game Irish winning streak by beating Notre Dame, 28-21. Pitt finished the season with a 7-6 record, while the Irish won two of their last three to finish 9-4.

Sept. 3, 2011: South Florida 23, Notre Dame 20

The Bulls, now a fellow AAC member, would walk into South Bend and come away with a 23-20 win. They finished the season an undistinguished 5-7. Notre Dame finished 8-5.

Nov. 30, 2010: Tulsa 28, Notre Dame 27

The Golden Hurricane, now also of the AAC, took a 28-27 win in South Bend. They would go on to a 10-3 record and Notre Dame would finish 8-5, but folks would be hard-pressed to make an argument that Tulsa of 2010 is better than Temple of 2015.

Nov. 21, 2009: UConn 33, Notre Dame 30

A Randy Edsall-coached Connecticut team that would finish 8-5 walked into South Bend and came away with a 33-30 win. That was the worst of all the ND teams with a 6-6 record.

Updated depth chart

Updated depth chart

Early Bird Gets Worm; Procrastinators Get Tapeworm

Matt Rhule talks about the terrific job he and his staff and his kids did on a short week.

One of the most amazing things about these past few weeks was reading posts on facebook and twitter from unfamiliar handles saying they were long-time Temple fans and asking if anyone has an extra ticket.

Helloooooooooooo?

One of the many benefits of a Temple education is that the bullbleep antenna is very well-honed. First of all, they made this announcement of a Temple vs. Notre Dame game to be played in Philadelphia in 2011.

Not 2012.

Not 2013.

Not 2014.

Two thousand and eleven.

That was more than four years ago and a lot of thoughts floated around in my mind about this game. None of them were, “Geez, I can wait until there are two weeks before the game to get a ticket.”

A lot of these requests are from Notre Dame interlopers. It doesn’t take more than deductive reasoning to come to that conclusion.

In other words, I knew it was going to be sold out. You knew it was going to be sold out.The only shock to me was that the sellout did not occur in the days after the historic 27-10 win over Penn State, but weeks later. Those who waited that long were lucky to get tickets. Those who waited until oh,  like about now, are SOL. S*it out of luck, if  you do not know what that means.

The tickets on the secondary markets are off the charts but get your tickets for the Memphis game now.

The tickets on the secondary markets are off the charts but get your tickets for the Memphis game now.

Now this is what we do know. Temple vs. Notre Dame is the biggest college football game in the history of the city of Philadelphia, if you do not count the 1943 game that featured No. 2 Army vs. No. 6 Penn State. (I do not because I’m shocked Penn was able to keep so many able-bodied men in the school in the middle of an undecided war. Penn should have been investigated for some sort of recruiting violations.) That game ended in a 13-13 tie.

This game will not end in a tie and everyone who has a ticket in their hands right now should consider themselves incredibly fortunate. The early bird gets the worm. The procrastinator gets the tapeworm.

If you say you are a Temple fan and cannot get a ticket, shame on you. You had a chance to get one a long time ago. The other fans, the ones we see every week, deserve this incredible experience.