In any other season, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco should be thrilled.
Before Cincinnati lost to Alabama in the National semifinals, the league was 5-0 (two wins, three forfeits) and 2-0 in actual games against the vaunted SEC.
This year was a little different, though.
Owners of two of those wins, UCF and Houston, will be gone soon but probably hang around next season. So will Cincy.
Bragging about being a Power 6 conference is probably out of the question now.
Temple should not expect to compete for the title this year, but there is no reason the Owls should not expect or demand to be on top in the new AAC that begins next year. In other words, the administration should demand no less than being the new Cincinnati. Temple beat Cincy four-straight years before losing to the Bearcats the last couple of times.
Temple, like Cincy, is located in a big city and should be vying with another large city school, Memphis, the title every year. Even USTA and UAB are ahead of the Owls right now but, with judicious use of the transfer portal, the Owls should be able to overtake those schools.
Should be and will be are two different things.
The task for new head coach Stan Drayton is to right the ship this year. If he learns anything from the failures of Rod Carey, it’s that dipping into the portal for just six players when your roster is speed, depth and strength challenged is simply not enough.
The Owls have to get a dozen potential starters out of the portal to just be competitive right away, say, 6-6, and then take the next step toward contending for the title in 2023.
The portal has mostly taketh away from Temple in the Carey years but Temple needs to do some innovative things to benefit from it.
The Owls really need to get a quarterback who can challenge Dwan Mathis for the starting role. Justin Lynch and Mario Valenti were just not good enough.
They may need to dip into the FCS ranks and nab a quarterback. Look at how Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe put his team on the map after transferring from tiny Houston Baptist. The Owls need to find another Bailey Zappe. Watching the FCS playoffs, there are plenty of quarterbacks out there even better than Mathis and the competition might be good for Dwan, too.
Other than that, getting some of the lost Temple players back would help, too. Vince Picozzi was the second-best offensive lineman on the team for two-straight eight-win seasons and would solidify the line. Cornerback Linwood Crump has always been positive about Temple in his tweets and would be welcome back.
They are the kind of leaders the rest of the team both remembers and respects and would take no BS in the locker room and accept no less than maximum effort, something we did not see in either 2020 or 2021.
Drayton can set the tone by hiring a terrific staff and a strength coach the players relate to (David Feeley is available), but he needs more Jimmy and Joes than X’s and O’s and he needs them now.
Without Houston, UCF and Cincy, there is a void at the top of the AAC.
The Owls better have a plan to fill it.