Imagine for a moment if the skeptics like me and most of the college football world were wrong and the highly-paid (some say overpaid) football coaching staff at Temple was right.
Temple would beat Memphis on Saturday.
Come to a fork in the road and there is a very narrow path off to the side where we can see a Temple win.
Let’s walk down that one.
It’s a narrow trail but it looks like this:
Memphis struggled to beat an Arkansas State team, 55-50. That was the same Arkansas State team that lost to Washington, 52-3. Not surprising, you say because the Huskies are a big-time Power 5 team.
That same big-time Power 5 team lost to FCS Montana, the No. 13-ranked team in that classification.
Temple has had its recruiting problems since Matt Rhule left but every Temple recruiting class in the last decade was rated significantly higher than every Montana recruiting class. Maybe the Montana coaches are better.
Temple has a puncher’s chance in this game and, hopefully, that punch is closer to Buster Douglas in his upset of Mike Tyson than it is to Ernie Terrell against Muhammad Ali.
Temple isn’t the Temple of 2016, but Memphis is not the Memphis of two years ago. That Memphis lost only one regular-season game.
Guess to who?
One of the reasons was that Temple had a loud, enthusiastic, crowd of over 35,000 for its win.
This Temple crowd won’t approach that due to COVID and other issues but I have no doubt that this will be the largest Temple crowd of the season, my best guess in the 28-29,000 range. They will be taking names.
Hopefully, Temple will be kicking ass.
That’s where the Temple coaching staff comes into play.
Somewhere along the line, maybe with snow falling outside of Carey’s office window in January, this highly-paid group sat in the coaching offices of the $17 million Edberg-Olson Complex and decided that six portal starting transfers were enough to offset the the loss of a dozen really good high-character guys who were also good football players.
The math didn’t add up to me, but I’m not making $2 million per year like Rod Carey is.
Give the guy the benefit of the doubt, which we have not done since February. (Then again, he’s done nothing to earn it.)
In my mind, both Jadan Blue and Randle Jones can be big-time playmakers and, if five-star quarterback D’Wan Mathis can get them the ball both on jet sweeps and deep, the Owls have a chance. Both are NFL players who have graciously given themselves so that their teammates can wash out the bad taste of a 1-6 record last year with a better one this season. That’s the kind of selflessness, say, a R’Mahn Davis never showed here. A good game plan is what they deserve. Trick plays (shovel passes to Tayvon Ruley and an end around pass or two) would be helpful, but we’ve never seen that under Carey. They have a unique talent in backup running back Trey Blair, who was also a damn good high school quarterback. Is there a halfback pass in the playbook for him?
On defense, Manny Walker has been a star but Will Rodgers III came in more heralded and if both make plays against the true freshman Memphis quarterback, Temple could have a defensive score in this one. Rodgers has to time to snap count better and meet at the quarterback at the same time Walker does. Maybe the ball pops loose and Amir Tyler can scoop and score it. Sean Henigan was a big-time Texas high school quarterback, but only rated as a three-star recruit. Mathis, who turned down Michigan State and Ohio State, is the only five-star quarterback in the entire AAC.
Maybe he can turn the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard into an adding machine.
Arkansas State scored 50 on this squad. Temple will have to score 38 or more and avoid the special teams’ snafus that have played it for the last three years. I’ve maintained in this space that hope doesn’t get me to a bowl and my head tells me that this group is headed for 2-10. We said it would be 2-2 after four games and we were right. My guess is Memphis wins this something like 31-20.
It would be nice to be wrong about this team for once. Saturday would be a perfect place to start.
Picks this week: Going against conventional wisdom (and the G5) in picking host Notre Dame to upset Cincinnati, 28-24. (Cincy is a two-point favorite on the road.) ND recruits at a whole different level and Cincy had a tough game against another Indiana team, The University of Indiana. The Hoosiers aren’t nearly as good as the Irish. Also liking Oregon State as a 2.5-point underdog to visiting Washington, UAB as a 1.5-point favorite vs. visiting Liberty and Western Michigan as a 3-point favorite at Buffalo.
Lock of the week: AKRON getting 9.5 over visiting Ohio. Akron isn’t good, but Ohio (without Frank Solich) is truly putrid and nowhere near worthy of being almost a double-digit favorite. Ohio lost at home to Duquesne which, not all that long ago, was a Division III program. Akron not only covers but wins outright, 31-30.
Latest update: Lost on Notre Dame, Liberty and Akron, won on Oregon State and Western Michigan. With the 2-3 weekend, 10-5-1 against the spread is updated to 12-8-1.
Record: 10-5-1 ATS
Sunday: Homecoming Analysis