Quick, jot down this number: 119.
That’s where Temple football got rated nationally after nearly beating a Big 10 team last week. Moving five lousy stinking spots up the national ladder isn’t going to make anyone outside of Philadelphia notice.
Quick, jot down another number, 20,111.
After 33,297 attended Homecoming, that’s probably the number–give or take 1,000–that Temple will announce after tomorrow’s game against visiting Massachusetts (2 p.m., ESPN+).
The needle after a 16-14 loss to Rutgers hasn’t changed things much. Temple Homecoming fans are usually not football fans, but Temple fans. If Temple had won, they would keep coming back. If Temple had lost, they were gone until next year. That’s what the numbers show based on past history and those numbers never change. Temple lost so it’s tough sledding getting those fans back.
Homecoming fans are not nuanced enough to know there is real improvement in Temple football this season. Regular fans?
Temple could have, probably should have, won, except for a fluke tip interception that went the other way.
The perception to those of us close to the program has changed. Obviously, nationally, Temple football has a long way to go.
Kyle Hunter, one of the nation’s best prognosticators, wrote, “Temple-UMass is the sicko game of the week.”
To many nationally, it is.
Sad, really, how far the program has sunk from an outside perspective thanks to the last guy.
To Temple, though, this game represents the starting point of the road to relevancy.
If Temple wants to make the right turn, it needs to hammer UMass tomorrow and start a winning streak now.
Something on the order of 31-19 would do the trick (49-7 is preferable) and maybe wake a few national people up. Even that won’t move the needle much. To get even a couple thousand of those Homecoming fans back, Temple will need to win at Memphis the next week.
First things first, though.
The SP+ 2022 computer model has Temple winning 31-19, and has Temple has one of its four best locks of the week. The computer has a 76 percent success rate against the spread. That’s a higher success rate than IBM’s Watson had against Brad Rutter on Jeopardy (72 percent).
I really believe Rutgers would beat Toledo and Toledo hung a 55-10 number on Massachusetts.
Still, UMass fans think they can win and, you know what, the Minutemen definitely can. Put it this way: If freaking Incarnate Word can beat both Nevada and Southern Illinois and Southern Illinois can beat Northwestern, UMass can beat Temple.
If the Owls play on defense like the mad crazed dogs they did against Rutgers, UMass won’t. Rutgers is about 50 points better than UMass. Had D’Wan Mathis not put the ball on the carpet twice, Temple probably could have been 50 points better than Lafayette. Had he not played so poorly in the first half against Duke, that might have been closer. We will never know.
It’s a new beginning now for Temple.
UMass will not come into the Linc with the Owls receiving the same kind of frenzied support from their fans as they did a week ago. So maybe the Owls won’t pummel the Minutemen like they should. The Owls will have to create their own atmosphere by making plays and those of us who are there wearing the Cherry and White will have to pump up the volume.
The blueprint for this trip is clear: Temple must run the ball better than it has in the first three games and its defense must take the ball away.
UMass will try to run and, if the Temple defense plays the way it did a week ago (and in the second half against Duke), it will be forced to do something uncomfortable: Pass. When that happens, Temple defenders must treat that ball like it is theirs.
Temple hasn’t really had a stud running back since Bernard Pierce but it doesn’t need a Pierce this year. It needs a Ryquell Armstead and, in Darvon Hubbard, he has shown that more in real games than any of the other backs. If he or Jakari Norwood is back against UMass, one of those two need to dicate the tempo.
It will be nice to see what D’Wan Mathis can bring to the receiving game and that piece should be available for all to see on Saturday.
It’s too bad the casual fans won’t be there. Some of them will be back if the Owls rip off a modest winning streak that starts here. If it’s an immodest one, all of them will be back.
Picks this week: Went 2-2 last week and, after a 3-2 start against the spread two weeks ago, sit at 5-4 against the spread. We like two underdogs (Duke at Kansas and JMU at App. State) getting a touchdown and Houston’s Rice Owls getting 17.5 against crosstown rival Houston. Also like two favorites, Memphis laying the 12.5 against visiting North Texas State and Eastern Michigan laying the two field goals against visiting Buffalo.
Sunday: Game Analysis