In my lifetime, I have watched only a very few masters in their crafts.
Wayne Hardin coaching a football game certainly is one. Leonard Bernstein conducting a philharmonic orchestra is another. Carl Sagan talking about the planets and Stephen Hawking discussing physics certainly were other examples.
This week I was again drawn to Steve Kornacki talking about politics in general and vote counting in particular. As late as 11 p.m. Thursday night, Kornacki said there is a small pathway for both the major political parties to control each chamber of the Legislative branch. Kornacki breaks down political races every bit as well as Hardin coached football, Bernstein waved the baton, and Sagan and Hawking had a handle on their respective fields.
Kornacki must have been reading my mind because that was exactly my thinking about this Saturday’s Temple at Houston college football game (3 p.m., ESPN+). It has been all week.
There is a pathway, albeit a small one, where I can envision the Temple Owls pulling off an upset as a 20-point underdog.
First, Temple will have to prove Saturday’s 54-28 win over USF last Saturday was not a one-off. That is, after a month of hovering around producing 10 points a game, the Owls figured something out and now can play what head coach Stan Drayton calls “complementary football.” Meaning the offense will need to contribute at least a third, with the defense a third and the special teams a third.
That’s been out of whack until now.
My theory is that it isn’t a one-off because the offense showed signs of being a representative outfit for the entire second half against Navy. Give them at least as much credit for that because the Owls were able to move the ball effectively against a defense that played well enough to beat a very good East Carolina team and “hold” SMU to 37 points fewer than Houston did.
That’s important because the Houston defense is the weak spot of that team. It allowed USF 27 points and SMU 77 points and, if indeed the Temple offense is a “1 1/2 off” and not a one-off, the Owls have a puncher’s chance. If the Temple defense was porous, it wouldn’t make a difference but the Temple defense has been consistently good for eight of nine games. It doesn’t need to play out of its mind to beat Houston. It just has to avoid playing like it did at UCF. Houston has been good, but not overwhelming. It “only” beat Rice, 34-27 and Rice lost 56-23 to a 2-8 Charlotte team. It beat USF (42-27) by a less impressive score than Temple did. In a 77-63 loss to SMU last week, it lost three more starters to injury on top of the three starters it did in the game before. That has to take its toll. Maybe the loss of available bodies will finally hurt a Temple opponent. Temple, on the other hand, is relatively healthy.
The outcome won’t be determined by the Houston team that shows up as much as the Temple one. Is the 54 points more a reflection on Temple or USF?
There are some clues. The 54 points came after a nice second half at Navy by the Temple offense.
So, on offense, one game is an anomaly. More than one game is something else and, three games–if the Owls can keep trending upward–could mean something special and send a message to the rest of the college football world that Temple is back.
Those precincts have yet to report but from what I’m seeing, there is a lot of Cherry on that map. Votes for the Owls have not been counted but will by 6:15 or so tomorrow night.
If the good guys have one more than the bad guys when all the points are counted, that’s all that matters.
Late Saturday: Game Analysis
Our Picks This Week: Only four games stood out to us as “mistakes” by Vegas. Indiana (a team that beat a very good Western Kentucky team) getting 40 points at Ohio State is way too much. At most, I see this as a 48-14 OSU win. Fresno State has improved from its one-point loss to UConn and UMass is playing out the string for Don Brown this year like Temple did for Rod Carey last year so both Fresno and Arkansas State should cover hefty spreads. San Jose State is a sneaky good team and should beat San Diego State closer to 24-17 than the 2.5 spread.
Record this year: 22-17 ATS.