Anyone who thinks a 2-9 Tulsa this afternoon (4 p.m., ESPN NEWS) is going to be a pushover for Temple is sadly mistaken.
Exhibits A and B are two scores: Tulsa 45, Houston 17 and USF 27, Tulsa 20.
Both of those are real scores and both happened this season, not some season long ago. The Hurricane beat one good team badly and hung tough with the second- or third-best team in the league on the road a week ago.
Yes, Temple is 5-6 and Tulsa is 2-9 and ostensibly playing for a lot more than the Hurricanes. Still, this is Senior Day at Tulsa and 19 seniors are saying goodbye. They will not quit.
So Temple has to execute. In our minds, maybe not Dave Patenaude’s, that means establishing the run with the tailback following the best fullback in the country through the hole, then hitting on explosive plays in the play-action passing game. Really, that’s the only way Temple has won the prior two seasons and the only way Temple can win today.
This game is as much for Temple setting up next year’s slogan as much as anything else. When the Owls finished 6-6 at the end of the 2014 season, fullback and team leader Kenny Harper got up on the podium at the E-O and said, simply: “Leave No Doubt.”
He and the rest of the seniors were leaving the unmistakable slogan for the next year that six wins would not be good enough; that six wins would be putting the Owls’ fate in someone else’s hands. Harper’s words carried the Owls through one 10-win season and an appearance in the AAC championship game. The next year’s slogan was “Unfinished Business” and that was also fulfilled with the business being an AAC title.
This year, though, is different.
.. .that means establishing
the run with the tailback
following the best fullback
in the country through the
hole, then hitting on explosive
plays in the play-action passing
game. Really, that’s the only
way Temple has won the prior
two seasons and the only way
Temple can win today
Six wins would MOST LIKELY put the Owls in a bowl and give them the chance to finish the season with the kind of exclamation point they were not able to even in 10-win seasons the last two years. From our algorithms, we have been able to determine that there is a 99.5 percent chance for this year’s Owls to reach a bowl with six wins, while the six-win team of 2014 stood no more than a 45 percent chance.
Winning a bowl this year would be a welcome difference compared to the last two seasons but to win one you’ve got to get to one first.
Owls had trouble with that minor detail in their last six-win season because the AAC had four bowl-tie ins in 2014, having sold their fifth–the Bahama’s Bowls–to the MAC. This year, the conference has seven bowl tie-ins and since the winner of the league, probably UCF, will be going to a New Year’s Six Bowl, any six-win AAC team will qualify for some bowl. Even in the unlikely event that the AAC has eight six-win teams, the profile of the league is such that any qualifying team will not be snubbed.
At least, that’s the way we see it.
If the Owl team that showed up for Navy shows up for Tulsa, the Owls will be one of those teams. If, on the the other hand, the Owls who lost to UConn show up in Oklahoma today, they will be sitting on the couch watching other less talented teams and wondering just what swag, money downs, juice and #TheStandard really means.
And they will leave a lot of doubt for next year and for the entire Geoff Collins Era. So there is a lot at stake in the three hours that begin at 4 this afternoon or next year’s slogan could be a real doozy.
Tomorrow: Game Analysis