Going into the season, if you honestly asked yourself the question what sets Temple apart from every other team in this conference you might come away with these takes:
- Great linebackers
- Great offensive line
- Great return game
The return game is led by the school’s first (and perhaps last) returning first-team All-American. (We’ll answer why later in this post.)
If there’s a key to winning in football, it’s accentuating your strengths to the detriment of the bad guys. The linebackers have been as advertised, all single-digit Temple TUFF guys who have played up to the honor. The offensive line is still the offensive line that Ryquell Armstead followed to six touchdowns at Houston and helped him become a fifth-round NFL draft selection.
Something appears to be missing.
That great return game, particularly on punt returns. Isaiah Wright, that first-team All-American punt returner, has 10 punt returns for 68 yards, a 6.8 average and no touchdowns. Pedestrian figures for a first-team All-American considering that he had 19 punt returns for 23.8 per return last year and two touchdowns. The alarming number is the good returns he has passed up so far, instead electing to fair catch. He’s had more fair catches (16) than punt returns (10). From my seat, he’s made pretty good decisions on about half of those as a guy was in his face. The other half, not so good. He’s had at least a step, maybe two, to work his magic.
Enough with the fair catches already. If we wanted a guy to make fair catches, we’d have any other wide receiver on the roster back there.
Nobody makes the first guy miss as much as Wright and, if I’ve missed anything this year, that’s what I’ve missed the most: Seeing Wright make the bad guys break their ankles trying to tackle him and make that punt return the best offensive play in the playbook.
I don’t think we will ever see a returning first-team All-American at Temple again unless he’s a true freshman or sophomore and Temple doesn’t recruit those kinds of guys (Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is an example). Once they are a junior, they can declare so Wright did Temple a huge favor coming back for his senior year.
He can do himself a bigger favor by returning those punts for the final half of the season and showing the NFL scouts that he still has the Wright stuff. He can still raise his stock from a UDA to a high pick with a good final seven games. Remember, at this time last year, Duke’s Daniel Jones was rated as a UDA but his terrific second half of the season–including the bowl win over Temple–kept moving him from a fifth to a third to a first-round pick as the season went along.
The most important thing now, though, is helping his teammates achieve their goal which is a championship run (see above video). Wright was a big part of those great plans for this year and just because hasn’t been so far doesn’t mean he can’t be going forward.
Nothing better than Saturday night to start flipping the field only the way he can and reminding people that the Owls have a weapon no other team in this league can match.
Predictions (for amusement only): A very tough week for picks. Thought about taking Tulane getting the 3.5 points at Navy but Navy is playing so well that I’m letting that game go. Do like Indiana giving the 1 at Nebraska, Georgia State as a pick at Troy (still not fully recovered from losing coach Neal Brown), Liberty giving the 7.5 at Rutgers (betting against RU has made a lot of people rich), Ball State giving the 3 at Ohio, fake Miami (Ohio) getting the 2.5 against visiting Kent State (can’t believe Miami is an underdog there), TCU getting the 2.5 over visiting Texas and Pitt laying the 5 against the real Miami. So thankful that Manny Diaz is learning on the job there and not at Temple.
Last week: As far as the spreads go, I was 5-2-1 (the push was Wake beating FSU by the 2) so I will just throw out the push. Lost on Cuse and Duke but won five straight: ECU covering the 33 against UCF, Minnesota covering the 29.5 (Rutgers never covers these ridiculous spreads) and also winning with Louisiana Tech (a much better team than people realize), Georgia Tech (Diaz is even worse than Collins, if that’s possible), and BYU not only covering but winning the game OUTRIGHT against unbeaten Boise State. For the season: 29-12 SU, 25-16 ATS.
Sunday: Game Analysis