Maybe it’s for the best that nobody expects Temple to win its game at UCF on national television Thursday night.
Temple’s players do. Temple’s coaches do and only the most die-hard fans do.
Maybe it’s best because UCF will be playing not to lose and the Owls will be able to play to win.
There was a game like that six years ago between the teams when the Owls traveled to UCF with a championship on the line every week and played tight against a Knights’ team coming off an 0-12 season.
Temple fell behind, 25-7, but used perhaps the greatest 32-second drill in the history of the sport to pull out a 26-25 win. If the Owls don’t win that game, they probably don’t win the championship.
Both teams took a step forward after that night as the Owls won the championship and UCF went from 0-12 to 6-6.
If history repeats itself on Thursday night, and the Owls jump to a 25-7 lead and lose 26-25 but finish 6-6, the Owls would probably take that trade because, in reality, expecting a win here may be a bridge too far.
UCF beat a Georgia Tech team that beat Duke. On the flip side, Louisville beat UCF. Those Cardinals also lost to a Boston College team (that also lost to Rutgers). The Owls pretty much played Rutgers to a competitive standoff, getting more first downs, time of possession, and yards but losing only on a fluke-tipped interception.
Fluke-tipped interceptions are part of the game, though, and who is to say the Owls won’t be on the good side of that bouncing ball in a couple of nights?
What we’ve seen so far from Temple is pretty clear: The Owls have a defense that CAN keep them in every game and an offense that CAN cause them to lose every single game. They have an attacking defense and a predictable offense. Putting some unpredictability into that offense should be a feature of Thursday night’s game plan.
Really, the offense showed up only in the 28-0 win over Massachusetts, and, for the 2022 Owls to have the same kind of rebound season the 2016 Knights did, it will have to show up on a more consistent basis. The most interesting Temple-centric score of the weekend occurred at UMass where the same Minutemen who were shut out by the Owls but were also able to put up 24 points on Liberty.
Liberty might be every bit as good as UCF is now.
That’s not much to cling hopes on but there are signs that Temple will be competitive. After an 0-12 season in 2015, that’s all UCF could ask for in 2016 and it achieved that goal. After a 3-9 season in 2021, that’s about the best Temple fans could ask for now.
Of course, if the Temple players and coaches prove everyone else wrong on Thursday night, that would be OK too.
Friday: Game Analysis