After Temple makes a prime time appearance on ESPN Friday night at Cincinnati, the Bearcats–a longtime staple of the Owls’ football schedule–will be gone.
Maybe forever from the Temple schedule after this year given the fact that the school wants an early departure from the American Athletic Conference.
That’s sad because Cincy was a longtime regional rival in the next state over where the Owls have had pretty good success against.
The Owls have more to thank Cincinnati for than the wins, though.
Cincinnati showed Temple University how to get to the top of the AAC: Build a state of the art on-campus stadium (Nippert Stadium is basically a new stadium on an old site) and compile four-straight top-level recruiting classes composed of players who want to experience college life in an urban environment, not in the middle of nowhere. Mix in a popular players coach who wants to stay a few years and not jump for the first P5 offer like most of his league mates, stir, and come up with a top 10 team.
In the G5, a top 10 team is reaching the pinnacle.
Philadelphia has arguably more to offer than Cincy as a city.
Temple, as a program, needs to, err, Cherry pick the other ingredients of success–getting a popular players’ coach and stringing together a few top-rated recruiting classes.
Can the Owls do it?
In Al Golden and Matt Rhule, the Owls had popular players’ coaches and top recruiting classes. In a league where everyone but Navy was running an RPO, they established a unique offensive style that featured establishing the run first. Only when that happened, which was pretty much always, the Owls faked it into the belly of a big-time running back (Bernard Pierce, Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead come to mind) and that mere fake led to wide open Temple receivers running through the secondary for explosive plays in the downfield passing game. Special teams were not only locked down but the Owls routinely got big punt returns on their end and blocked punts on the other end.
Temple beat Cincinnati four-straight times and the only recent loss to the Bearcats came on a blocked extra point that was taken back for two points in 2019. Under Rod Carey, the Owls don’t lock down special teams. Hell, they often leave the keys on top of the vehicle so the carjackers don’t have to do any work. Returning a kick for touchdown? Not allowed. Blocking a punt? Out of the question. You know how to take a punt to the house? Put Trey Blair back there. He has plenty of experience doing just that in a great high school league. You know how to block a punt? Have your tallest player (Ronnie Stevenson?) with a good wingspan and vertical leap come straight up the middle and stick his paw up. When Steve Addazio needed to block a field goal at UConn, he put 6-6 wide receiver Deon Miller in the game and gave him the job. It got done. Temple won, 17-14, when Brandon McManus kicked the game-winning field goal with no time left.
“I wanted to put the ball in the middle of the field and give the best kicker in the country a chance to win it and that’s just what he did,” Daz said.
Over at Cincy, special teams are the same third of the game they were at Temple under the Golden Rhule.
Now Cincy is on top of the AAC hierarchy and a lot of things will have to go right for the 28-point underdog Owls to shock the world on Friday.
Whatever happens, Cincy has now taken over the league for however much time they have left in it. Before leaving, they have shown the Temple administration how to get back on top. It’s not rocket science and it’s doable.
Football is the front porch of a major university and Cincy has the best porch in the AAC neighborhood now.
Good blueprints make for good porches. Now that the rich folks are leaving the neighborhood, we will find out soon enough if the Owls are the neighbors who invest enough coin to move on up to the East Side.
Friday: Cincinnati Preview