AAC Media Day: The Veneer is Off

Mike Aresco at least year’s AAC Media Day.

About five years ago, The Question was always answered one way:

What is the AAC all about?

Mike Aresco, the very well-paid commissioner of the league (exactly $2,246,027.00 cents per year), would always answer that the league felt it belonged as a Power conference and would accept no less than a Power 6 designation.

Now the veneer is off.

Arguably before now because the departure of cornerstone members Houston, UCF, and Cincy was known last year.

Now just about everyone knows that the AAC Media Day–which will be held on July 28–will take on another brave face: That Rice, UAB, FAU are all valuable additions and that the league will sustain one way or another.

No doubt, it will, but key members like Memphis and Temple want out and Aresco cannot claim otherwise in good faith.

The only way Memphis–which lost to quite possibly the worst Temple team in the last decade last year–and Temple (which most people would concede made a positive move jettisoning Rod Carey) stay is that they have no place to go.

That might be the truth but the larger truth is that this year the AAC is at its most vulnerable state since it was created in the ashes of the old Big East.

Memphis is renovating its stadium to the tune of $200 million (more than Temple said it would cost to build a new one) and that probably is not because it wants to remain in the AAC.

Temple’s media market (No. 4) is the only top five media market that does not have a Power 5 team within its footprint so, for that reason alone, a lot of eyes will be on the Owls and the way they bounce back from 1-6 and 3-9 seasons

Aresco can’t say that Temple or Memphis or really anyone else is committed to this league for a long time.

That said, it should be interesting how he walks on the eggshells that will no doubt be on the floor in less than a week. Repeating the same line he has in past media days threatens not only his credibility but the leagues.

Monday: There are two ways of looking at it

Temple football: Now playing with house money

Other than the one-handed ESPN Top 10 highlight reel catch by holdover Jadan Blue, almost every other big play in a 34-31 Temple football Homecoming win over visiting Memphis was made by a transfer portal guy.

Temple didn’t get a whole lot of them in the portal over the offseason but the ones it got made a difference on Saturday.

More than anything, it was a win for quality over quantity and for house money.

Georgia import D’Wan Mathis showed why he is Temple’s first quarterback “5 Star recruit” since Parade Magazine first-team All-American Kevin Harvey. He tied the record for single-game completions (John Waller against Buffalo shares it with him) with 35 and gave the crowd of 28,465 a glimpse of what an RPO quarterback could do with a tuck and run. Once Mathis ankle is 100 percent, Owl fans are going to see more of that. Let’s hope it’s sooner than later because nothing drives a defense crazier than a quarterback who can make a simple zone handoff read take it to the house on any given play.

Purdue transfer Amad Anderson sealed with the game by turning a short pass into a score.

UConn transfer Keyshawn Paul had a key fumble recovery caused by his relentless strip of the ballcarrier.

TU had 33x as many tweets as the next-best sports trend on Saturday afternoon.

Washington State transfer Will Rodgers III and Wake Forest transfer Manny Walker kept Memphis’ quarterback Sean Henigan’s head on a swivel.

Already, if you had the over in Vegas’ 2.5 over/under win total for the Owls, you’ve cashed in before the second league game and there maybe a few more wins to come because it’s really hard to figure this AAC race out below the Cincinnati level.

It’s all house money from this point out.

Memphis, which lost to Temple, knocked off a Mississippi State team three weeks ago that beat No. 15 Texas A&M Saturday.

UCF, which figured to be one of the two favorites, lost to a Navy team that lost to Marshall, 49-7.

UCF seems to be a lot more beatable today than it was Saturday.

So does nearly everybody else.

2018 Pa. broadcaster of the year Rob Vaughn was in the house

Really, with the exception of possibly Cincy, Temple can now win almost every game left on it schedule and it can lose almost every game left.

It’s simply a matter of this: Playmakers making plays. That’s how everyone has won in football since the game was invented four years after The Civil War ended.

Temple has had Blue and Jones make big-time plays for the last couple of years, but the more playmakers you have, the better the team’s bottom line.

Going into the season, it appeared the transfer portal guys were of quality but not of enough quantity to make a significant difference.

The bubble of that theory popped on Saturday thanks to the number of plays those few guys made.

The Owls have seven games left and, judging by the evidence left on the field Saturday, a lot more big-time plays to make both at home and on the road.

Cincy is next and nobody expects the Owls to win so they really have nothing to lose and can play without any pressure.

All the pressure will be on Cincy and, even though the game is on the road, house money is on Temple’s side.

Monday: A New Hierarchy

5 Ways This Season Won’t be The Same

Road closures for tailgating around the Linc this year

In another bit of what this space believes is governmental overreach, the City of Philadelphia announced Wednesday that four streets will be blocked off on Eagles’ Game Day so that fans cannot tailgate around Lincoln Financial Field.

No announcement was made about Temple, but they probably don’t feel the need to do so when it comes to the Owls. In other words, don’t expect to tailgate.

For a couple of weeks I was thinking about how this season will be different from all the rest and came up with five (out of about 100) off the top of my head:

5. Above-mentioned tailgating

All over in the first couple weeks of the season, we’ve seen places where people have been allowed at the games. Mostly, there’s been spacing with appropriate mask-wearing. The few shots of tailgating we’ve seen have shown the same. Not in Philadelphia, though. There won’t be fans or tailgating in Philadelphia this fall. Sad, because what worked at grocery stores and gas stations–appropriate social distancing and masks–can work at games and pre-games as well. Maybe next year.

4. Interesting non-conference matchups

So rare almost to be non-existent, a nugget will show up on the screen this weekend–UCF at Georgia Tech. Almost all of the conferences will be like the Big 10 this season, games almost exclusively against conference opponents. It’s a shame because I think Temple would have put a huge beatdown on Rutgers and the Owls even opened at a 12.5-point favorite on VegasInsiders.com this week (don’t know why VegasInsiders even listed the game because it’s non-existent) but the UCF at Georgia Tech probably will be one of the five best non-conference games this year. UCF is an 8.5-point favorite, but I would stay away from this game due to 10 UCF players opting out and uncertainty over whether GT’s win at FSU was due to GT being impressive or Mike Norvell facing unique first-year challenges.

3. Power 5 Dominance of Playoffs

The Power 5 might grab its usual four spots in the Final Four but, if there is one year the G5 can break through, it’s this one. How so? Say, UCF wins at Georgia Tech, goes unbeaten, and GT finishes no worse than second to Clemson in the ACC. It would be hard to deny Central Florida under that scenario, particularly if there are only two other unbeaten teams. Still, would prefer Temple to go unbeaten and UCF have that one loss but, if the Owls aren’t the team, Owl fans certainly would root for UCF in that scenario. Sadly, since the Owls did not seek out a P5 opponent (Pitt?) due to city practice restrictions, there is virtually no chance an unbeaten Temple team makes the playoffs.

2. Tuneups

In the early part of September, P5 teams like to schedule so-called cupcake games for tuneups prior to the conference season. The Big 12 thought it had three against the Sun Belt when Kansas hosted Coastal Carolina, Kansas State hosted Arkansas State and Iowa State hosted Louisiana. Those turned out to be tuneups for the Sun Belt, which now at least has a compelling argument it is the best G5 conference. At least this year.

  1. Stats

Asterisks in sports are always annoying but this will be the year of the asterisk. With eight games, it’s going to be hard to get a 1,000-yard rusher or a 20-touchdown passer. Doubtful any team season records will be broken this year. Say, though, with eight games instead of 12, Anthony Russo throws for more than 21 touchdown passes and fewer than the 11 interceptions he threw last year. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment. Harder, though, for Ray Davis to hit 1,000 yards in eight games if he could get 900 yards last year in a dozen. Still think he can do it but the bar gets higher. To me, Babe Ruth’s 60 homers in a 154-game season will always be more impressive than Roger Maris’ 61 in 162 games and that’s the prism we will view these 2020 football stats as well.

Monday: All Systems Go

Best of TFF: Streak No. 2 (49)

Editor’s Note: This story was first published on the day after Temple’s championship win. It received nearly 900,000 page views, the second-most in TFF history. The title broke a championship draught that dated back to 1967 when the Owls won the old Middle Atlantic Conference championship. This is the second part in our three-part Best of TFF series that will end Friday.

The morning after arguably the greatest win in Temple football history, there are no words.

Literally no words are coming out of my mouth, at least in the sense of being able to talk this morning.

The throaty and hoarse condition is more than OK because it was the result of cheering for the Owls at beautiful Navy-Marine Corps Stadium as they captured what really is their first-ever major football championship. The 1967 MAC title was admirable, but that was a day when the school played to a level of football that was beneath their status even then as one of America’s great public universities.

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 03 AAC Championship - Navy v Temple

ANNAPOLIS, MD – DECEMBER 03: Temple Owls defensive back Nate Hairston (15) carries the ACC Championship placard  (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

So this was it.

Walking out of the stadium and into the concourse, I let out a very loud primal: “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT!!”

Fortunately, I got a few high fives and smiles from my fellow Temple fans and not fitted for a straightjacket. It also put the voice out for 24 hours, maybe more.

When it comes to Temple football today at least, you cannot think in terms of a national championship—the deck is stacked against G5 teams in an unfair system—so what happened yesterday was the pinnacle of Temple football success. Thousands of Temple fans, easily in excess of 10,000 Temple fans, made Navy’s 15-game home winning streak a moot point by turning that stadium into a Temple home field advantage and to get to that mountaintop and look down from it is incredibly satisfying.

Hey, it’s a pretty spectacular pinnacle. The only thing that would have made it better was a G5 slot in a New Year’s Six bowl against Penn State, but that’s not happening for a number of reasons that are not important today. (Objectively, would you take a team for the Cotton Bowl that has won seven straight against this schedule and beat a Navy team, 34-10, over a Western Michigan team that struggled to beat a four-loss Ohio team? I would but I don’t expect the bowl committee to be that objective. I can also grudingly see the WMU argument.)

What is important is that the Owls have gone from being a perennial Bottom 10 team and laughed at nationally to being ranked in the Top 25 for two straight years and going to a title game one year and winning it the next. When you think of the success P.J. Walker and Jahad Thomas have had here, there is a Twilight Zone quality to the parallel between this success and their success at Elizabeth (N.J.). In their freshman year at Elizabeth, they won one game; in their freshman year at Temple they won two games. In their sophomore year at both schools, they won six games. In their junior year at both schools, they reached the title game and lost and, in their senior year at both schools, they lifted the ultimate hardware together.

Truly amazing and I will miss both of those guys.

Back on Cherry and White Day, I wrote that this team will be better than last year’s team while people on other websites—notably, Rutgers and Penn State fan boards—insisted that Temple would take a step back. I was consistent in my belief that this was the STEP FORWARD year, not the step back one, and that belief was rooted in knowledge that both the defense and offense were significantly upgraded despite graduation losses. Only a Temple fan who follows the team closely would know that, not the know-it-alls who make assumptions on subjects they have no idea what they are talking about.

Today at noon, the Owls will know where they will go for a bowl game. They can finish the season in the top 25 and set the record for most wins in Temple football history.

It won’t be the cake because we saw that yesterday, but it will be the Cherry on top of that white cake and it will be delicious even going down past what promises to be a future sore throat.

We’re No. 6!!!! (Or Not)

athlon

I’ll put my money down on this when I see Temple on the cover.

This is usually about the time I walk down the aisles of my local Giant and Weis Markets peruse the covers of the various college football guides.

Flipping about a third of the way through for most of them is where you come to the sections on AAC.

Most of them have the Temple football Owls, a successful program for over a decade by G5 standards, ranked No. 6 in the toughest G5 conference.

I’m not buying it. (Not just the magazine but the premise.)

IF … and that’s indeed an IF there is a next season with the current uptick in the health scare, Temple will not be No. 6. The Owls might not be No. 1 but I would put money on them being closer to No. 1 than No. 6 and that’s based on an objective look at the talent on the roster.

The reason is simple.

joke

I’ve seen the Owls ranked as high as No. 4 (Underdog Dynasty) to as low as No. 8 here (The Breakdown). Most of the major magazines have the Owls at No. 6 in the AAC.

The Owls have an outstanding offensive line, a first-team freshman All-American running back in Ray Davis and two great … and I’m NOT using hyperbole when I write this … wide receivers in Branden Mack and Jadan Blue. The stats are there for all to see. Blue not only led the Owls in catches (95), but he ranks No. 1 among all Owls of all time in that category in a single season. That covers a lot of ground, both figuratively and literally, considering Leslie Shephard and Steve Watson were outstanding receivers in the NFL. Despite that, Mack–a complementary 6-5 receiver to Blue’s 6-1–caught more touchdown passes (7-4).

Quarterback Anthony Russo is on target to break all but two of P.J. Walker’s Temple career records (yards and touchdown passes). IF he makes the same kind of improvement from junior year to senior (14 touchdowns, 14 interceptions to 21-12), he has an outside shot at collecting all of the records. How outstanding would that be? P.J. played four years; Anthony only three.

The returning interior defensive line is really good, led by Dan Archibong and Ifeanyi Maijeh. Some transfers and recruits have bolstered the interior wall so moving Archibong out to his original position (end) should be an option to help with the outside rush.

The Owls have one linebacker returning who was a bowl game MVP (William Kwenkeu) and another (Isaiah Graham-Mobley) who just might be a better NFL prospect than Eagles’ No. 5 pick Shaun Bradley. He was certainly on par with Bradley until he got injured halfway through the 2019 season.

Corners Christian Braswell, Ty Mason, and Linwood Crump Jr. are back and have had plenty of experience. Two (Braswell and Mason) have pick 6s in AAC games. Amir Tyler is a pretty good safety.

Plus, in head coach Rod Carey‘s seven years as head coach (six at NIU), he has never won fewer than eight games. He’s been able to plug enough holes and identify them to sustain excellence.

This is not a sixth-place team. It may not be the first-place one, either, as Cincinnati and UCF have more talent on paper, but it is one with a perception problem on the national scale fueled by a couple of dud bowl games.

Right now, perception is everything until the Owls have a chance to get on the field and prove the magazines wrong. Let’s hope they have a chance to do so.

Monday: That’s What I’m Talking About Willis

Saturday (7/11): You can’t really go home again

Monday (7/13): An idea that makes too much sense

Friday (7/18): Best of TFF (our annual one-week vacation begins)

 

Running out of time to set a date for football

Mike Aresco, AAC commissioner,

Mike Aresco seems confident the AAC will be playing football.

It looks like there are at least three possible outcomes for the resumption of college football this season:

  • One, the powers-that-be will confirm all football will start on time.
  • Two, the powers-that-be will announce a postponement, cancellation, or shortened season maybe even without fans.
  • Three, no date will be set at all and the season will resume as scheduled.

Whatever happens, it appears to be that we are running out of time to set a date but AAC commissioner Mike Aresco doesn’t seem concerned.

aresco

That’s important because, if there are going to be fans, they have to know whether to renew season tickets or not. There’s too much uncertainty out there and fragile fan bases–like most of the ones currently in the G5–are not going to make plans to renew if there is no announcement made.

That said, my money is now on No. 3.

First, Temple is already having voluntary workouts and most of the team will join for full workouts starting July 13. Second, the school already announced that it will have a combination of in-person and online classes this fall. The in-person element means that football can be played. It’s hard to justify college football if there are no students on campus.

Now onto the “powers-that-be.” In college football, that certainly is not the NCAA. Football is controlled by the Power 5 conferences who basically tell the NCAA what to do.

If the Power 5 decides to play, and all indications are that it will, the G5 will fall in line.

So while it would be nice to know a summertime date where something is written that all systems are go, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the season will happen as scheduled and without significant comment.

Right now, those “powers” are hoping that the virus doesn’t spiral out of control between now and September so making a formal announcement now probably won’t happen. Plan to attend the games, but don’t be surprised if they aren’t there.

Saturday: Is Temple really No. 6?

Monday: That’s what I’m talking about

Saturday (7/11): You can’t really go home again

Tulane has the right approach

Tulane v Temple

Temple goes on the road to play Tulane, which has two road P5 games.

Even though Temple beat a very good Tulane team last year, there is no denying the Green Wave is on the rise.

This year, if there is this year, they are poised to take advantage.

Tulane’s non-conference schedule has been ranked No. 1 by college football expert Tom Fornelli in the AAC and that’s probably the model Temple should pursue in the not-too-distant future.

Cincinnati v Tulane

Consider this: Tulane returns 14 of 22 starters from a bowl team and runs a unique zone bluff option type offense that is easier to pass off than, say, Army and Navy. It’s an offense few teams run and makes Tulane a tough team to prepare for in a one-week situation. Most P5 teams go up against a read-option and facing a different style makes it a tough team to prepare against.

Temple used to be that way as the Owls ran power football with a fullback for most of the Matt Rhule and Al Golden years. Since P5 teams didn’t see that style, the Owls had a fair share of success against more talented foes.

This is my favorite Rhule quote about Temple football from a Paul Myerberg piece in USA Today:

“”HOW DO WE DIFFERENTIATE OURSELVES? HOW DO WE MAKE OURSELVES HARD TO PREPARE FOR? PUT TWO BACKS ON THE FIELD. PUT TWO TIGHT ENDS ON THE FIELD. THIS IS WHAT YOUR ROOTS ARE. THESE KIDS HAVE MADE THEMSELVES REALLY TOUGH. AND THAT’S THE ONLY WAY WE’LL EVER WIN. BY BEING A REALLY, REALLY TOUGH FOOTBALL TEAM.”” _ MATT RHULE

Now it appears Tulane has adopted its own way to make it a difficult-to-prepare-for opponent.

Tulane goes on the road against Northwestern and Mississippi State and I like that scheduling. Both are P5 teams but both are beatable and winning those games would be a boost to the entire conference and not just Tulane.

Temple plays a home game against P5 bottom-feeder Rutgers and a road game against much-improved (at least from a personnel standpoint) Miami. However, if the Owls bring that read-option style to Miami with a classic pocket passer in Anthony Russo, they are going to get hammered by outside pass rushers Quincy Roche and Gregory Rousseau, who could both go in the first round of the NFL draft. Establish an inside running game to avoid those two ends and then throwing off play-fakes would probably mitigate the rush. Does Rod Carey go outside of his comfort zone to attack the weakness of his opponent?

We didn’t see much evidence of last in his last game.

Hopefully, his next game plan is the polar opposite of that one.

Monday: Drop dead date

 

Smoking Out the AAC winner: Cincy

Cincinnati v Tulane

In the run-up to the college football season, we’ve seen some hope among the generally accepted gloom and doom.

South Korea’s baseball season already has resumed with games on ESPN, albeit in empty stadiums. South Korea’s first case of the virus came on the same day as the United States’ first case.

So, yes, they are doing better than us but that doesn’t mean we won’t get to where they are. Also, New Zealand has declared it has had no new cases for the past two weeks. If college football can play its entire season in New Zealand, no problem.

That won’t happen.

The larger point is that there is hope for a college football season in the United States, even this year.

For the purposes of this post, though, we’ll assume there will be a season either this fall or next spring and it doesn’t look good from a Temple football perspective.

The Vegas Over/Under for the Owls is 5.5 wins.

be272-aac

Five. Point. Five.

I’ll take the over only when I’m sure there will be a season, but the line is telling me something.

Vegas was spooked by the Owls’ bowl result and the losing way they ended the season and is putting their money where their heads are.

So who is going to win the AAC?

Memphis won last year, but lost its head coach and that always has a negative impact on the next season.

UCF looks strong again but my money is on Cincinnati finally taking home the crown. Luke Fickell turned down the West Virginia job to remain at Cincinnati two years ago and it almost paid off but the Bearcats lost their final two league games to Memphis (regular season and championship). He turned down Michigan State in February to remain at Cincinnati.

I just wish one Temple coach would turn down one Power 5 job let alone two.

Two years ago, Cincy came to Philadelphia with 35 freshmen (including red shirts and true) on the traveling squad and those youngsters extended Temple into overtime before losing.

This year, based on coaching, experience and four-straight years of having the No. 1 recruiting class in the conference (either Scout.com or Rivals.com ratings.), the Bearcats should take home the league crown.

At least that’s my pick here on May 8. Next season should be over by May 8 and we will find out for sure by then.

We’ll go with an AAC East finish of Cincy, UCF, Temple in that order and fervently hope it’s flipped the other way.

Friday (5/15): Advantages of a shortened season

Monday (5/18): Recruiting Patterns

Friday (5/22): Suspending Campaigns

Turning it Around: Reseeding AAC bowls

Mike Aresco, AAC commissioner,

Mike Aresco, AAC commissioner, probably is going to seed the bowls differently next year.

Somewhere in the Rhode Island office of the league this morning after a long vacation,  AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is kicking himself.

The AAC started out 1-3 in the bowls but finished 4-3. That’s better than two Power 5 conferences but could have been even more impressive. UCF fans were salty that Temple and not it was playing a Power 5 team in a bowl game and, in retrospect, it looked like those fans were right. The thought process probably was then that Temple would draw better to the Military, but the thought process was skewed because, to this league, prestige means more than money at this point.

If Aresco had to reseed the bowls, we’re going to guess he might have gone with these matchups instead:

Military Bowl _ UCF vs. North Carolina. The speed of the Knights would have been a much better matchup against the Tar Heels than Temple would have been. While UNC put up 55 on the Owls, UCF put up 62 and, if it traveled pretty well to Philadelphia (it did), it would have done the same to Annapolis. UCF, 39-35.

Gasparilla Bowl _ Temple vs. Marshall. Cincinnati went to Marshall and beat the Thundering Herd, 45-13. Temple traveled to Cincy and would lose a 15-13 game it would have won if it had an even marginally passable special teams. Temple, 35-14.

Birmingham Bowl _ SMU vs. Boston College. SMU finished 10-2 in the regular season and was “awarded” with that trip with a game against FAU in the Boca Raton Bowl. That game was played on FAU’s home field and an unmotivated SMU team lost big-time. Had SMU played a BC team that Cincy beat, 38-6, got to think that the result would have been similar. SMU, 28-7.

Aresco could have done nothing about the Cotton Bowl because Memphis earned its spot and Navy’s beating of Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl was definitely a feather in the league’s cap.

Also, the Armed Forces Bowl that saw Tulane beat former rival Southern Mississippi was a good matchup. That said, the best the AAC could have done was gone 6-1 and we’ve got to think that’s probably why Aresco is kicking himself now because, with a little better forethought, that’s exactly what would have happened.

Thanks to a 55-13 loss, Temple will probably be sent to bowl hell next year if the Owls even make a bowl and it will be a well-earned sentence.

Friday: The Other Side of The Portal

 

Temple-Tulane: Stayin’ Alive

The classic 70s music booming from the boombox of one the best post-game tailgates (of many good ones) was from the Bee Gees yesterday.

“Stayin’ Alive.”

Not “staying” alive. Stayin’ alive.


“You know what?
I’ve never lost
to Cincinnati.”
_ James McHale,
a starting tackle
with the Owls the
past four seasons

Can’t go wrong with 1970s or 1980s music at any tailgate, pre- or post-game.

Kudos to that boomer for his boombox because no song was more appropriate for the set of circumstances facing the Temple football Owls now.

The situation has narrowed down to this: Temple stayed alive for what would probably be the most improbable conference title ever with a 29-21 win over a very good Tulane team.

Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 11.21.00 PM

A win over Cincy on Saturday night makes this beautiful moment a realistic possibility once again.

 

Improbable because has a conference champion ever lost 63-21 to another team from the same conference in the regular season? As Donovan McNabb might utter: “I would say no.”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The point is it’s not THAT far ahead of ourselves. Just less than a week now.

Goodbye to the few Tulane fans who made a lot of noise from their super box. They weren’t very original as “Get that ball back” seemed to be the only rhythmic cheer they could muster.

The Temple fans in the cheap seats below turned around and waved goodbye (Shaun Bradley style, Cincy, 2018) to them a few times and, to their credit, the Tulane fans in the not-so-cheap seats goodnaturedly waved back when it was apparent they lost.

Goodbye, and good luck.

Really, because if those fans make enough noise and come up with more original cheers in New Orleans next week, the Green Wave can do Temple a huge favor by knocking off UCF. (We suggest DEE-FENSE, DEE-FENSE and Let’s GO TU-LANE for starters.)

Tulane is a very good team so that’s not impossible.

Maybe not even improbable.

Screenshot 2019-11-16 at 9.10.20 PM

In order to beat Cincy, got to bring those rushing attempts and rushing yards up to 54 or so and 200 yards. Temple isn’t even trying to run the ball this year and it’s puzziling.

Should Temple travel to Cincy on that same day and beat the Bearcats for the fifth-straight season, all the Owls would have to do is hold serve against UConn to earn a trip to Memphis for the whole ball of wax. “You know what?” former Temple offensive tackle James McHale told me on the subway on the way home. “I’ve never lost to Cincinnati.”

McHale made a very good point about pride and tradition. Current Temple players: Do not let yourselves be the first class in five years who do because winning is imperative if the Owls are to have a chance at grabbing their second chip in four years. They are standing in the way and you are the way. Does anyone believe the Owls DON’T have a chance to win in Cincy? No. Does anyone believe Cincy is going to win in Memphis? I guess Cincy fans do, but I don’t. Temple must take care of its business first and the reward could be substantial.

After losing by consecutive blowouts in the middle of the season, that would be something.

Cue the Patsy Cline song “Crazy” for the post-game UConn tailgate should that happen but that’s from way back in 1961 so we might need another boomer box. A little Electric Slide action (Marcia Griffith, 1990) would also be nice for the playlist.

It’s up to the Owls getting by with only a little help from their friends (1968, Joe Cocker) to make it happen.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner