So it comes down to this.
All those videos of weightlifting in the offseason, two coaching signing ceremonies, practicing in the snow and all the other work comes down to one chance to shine on national television against a Power 5 foe.
Also, if the Owls come
out in anything other
than Cherry and White
in pre-game warmups,
call the bookies and
put all your chips on
blue. Since and including
the historic win over Penn
State, the Owls have played
66 games. They have worn
some combination of Cherry
and White in 51 of those games
where they are 40-11. In the
others, wearing black or gray,
they are 3-12
Temple could not have asked for more than this, a date with a respected ACC team on ESPN behind what by all accounts should be a large Owl crowd.
Nobody in the national media with the exception of AP beat writer Ralph Russo picked the Owls to play for the AAC championship. Even this site, which often dons the Cherry and White-colored glasses, picked Cincinnati to win the East and the Owls to finish third behind UCF.
That’s exactly what happened.
In those cases in the past, the third-place team in an AAC division was “designated for assignment” meaning a Florida bowl against a directional CUSA or Sun Belt foe.
Temple drew a pretty good straw in UNC, a team that not only beat South Carolina (which beat Georgia) but came within a point of knocking off No. 2 Clemson. This is a tall order the Owls will face (high noon, tomorrow, ESPN) but, if they play more like they did against Memphis and Georgia Tech than they did against SMU and UCF, they have a good chance.
I certainly don’t.
If the line is, to quote Mike Missanelli, “telling you something” it is telling you Temple. North Carolina opened as a 5 1/2-point favorite and that line has dropped steadily to 5 and now 4 1/2 points. That’s a lot of money going in Temple’s direction.
History says something else. Temple coach Rod Carey does well against the Big 10 in regular-season games (5-2) but not so much against anybody in bowl games (0-6). He doesn’t have much of a history at all against AAC teams. His predecessor at Northern Illinois, Dave Doreen, the head coach at North Carolina State, just came off a 41-10 loss to the Tar Heels so let’s hope those two are no longer talking. Maybe Carey’s dismal bowl history is because of how he handles the month of extra practices. Or maybe he’s just due for a win.
We will find out in less than 24 hours but my hunch, as it is before every Temple game, is that if the Owls can exploit some of the opponents’ weaknesses and enhance their own strengths, they will come out on top.
North Carolina is 24th in the nation in average passing yards per game behind a future Heisman Trophy candidate in freshman Sam Howell (285 ypg). It is 41st in rushing yardage. If the Owls behind Quincy Roche and company can get to Howell early and often, that mitigates a UNC strength and forces them to use a running game that has been mediocre at best.
Plus, the Owls themselves should run the ball to set up the pass and not vice-versa but that’s a theme we’ve been preaching here for all year but Carey hasn’t listened. Only in the second half after Carey fed Ray Davis, did the Owls have any success in the passing game in a crucial loss to Cincinnati. They threw the ball 26 of the first 34 plays at Cincy and that’s a recipe for disaster. Maybe try running 26 of the first 34 plays tomorrow.
It could not hurt.
Feeding the beast early and often behind Matt Hennessy probably doubles the chances that Anthony Russo is effective in the play-action passing game.
Also, if the Owls come out in anything other than Cherry and White in pre-game warmups, call the bookies and put all your chips on blue. Since and including the historic win over Penn State, the Owls have played 66 games. They have worn some combination of Cherry and White in 51 of those games where they are 40-11. In the others, wearing black or gray, they are 3-12.
When it comes to predicting these unpredictable bowls, the color of the unis could be as viable an indicator as any matchups.
Saturday: Game Analysis
Monday: Season Analysis