The Easiest Money In All of Sports

First week has the Owls favored by 19. I would stay away from that.

First week has the Owls favored by 19. I would stay away from that, but Indiana covering the 4 at FIU looks tempting, as does Paul Johnson covering the same number at Steve Addazio.

 

For a lot of us, probably me included, it is a good thing we don’t live in Las Vegas.

We would either be living in a poor house or a mansion but probably not in between.

I don’t feel a great urge to gamble much, but when I see certain things involving Temple football—like last year’s ambush of a bowl game in Boca Raton or last year’s opener in South Philadelphia—the urge is strong enough to walk to Las Vegas and place a few sheckles on an event. (I know tons of friends who do bet online and leave their credit card information offshore, but I am not willing to do that.)

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I would never bet against the Owls, but the administration put the team in an impossible spot with really nothing to win by beating Toledo last year and a few dollars would have eased my pain for that loss I saw coming a mile away.

This year’s “easiest money in all of sports” involves the Owls’ third game of the season, a Sept. 17th date at Penn State. The Owls are 6.5-point underdogs and they shouldn’t be. Looking at this objectively, which I can do (see last year’s pre-Toledo post), I cannot see how this should be anything but a pick-em at worst and a slight Owl lean at best.

That’s why grabbing the 6.5 now is a gift you can thank me for later.

My reasoning is simple. Two relatively easy tuneups, Army and Stony Brook, ease some talented newcomers into the lineup to help the holdovers and bring them up to speed. Penn State has a tough, emotional, game at Pitt the week before and that will take a lot out of Nits. (They don’t think it will be emotional, but Pitt will hit them in the chops and they will respond but the fight could be bloody.)

This year’s version of the Owls’ defense—which returns three starters at linebacker in Stephaun Marshall, Avery Williams and Jarred Alwan—return. Despite the loss of Tyler Matakevich, this should be a better linebacker group. They are faster and better at pass coverage and, in Alwan’s words, their “chemistry is ridiculous.” Ridiculous, as in good. The linemen in front of them—Haason Reddick, Karamo Dioubate, Avery Robinson, Greg Webb and either Praise Martin-Oguike or Sharif Finch—represent the fastest Temple group in the last decade. There is solid depth behind them with guys like Michael Dogbe and Freddy Booth-Lloyd, who can easily fight themselves into the starting lineup.

With a four-year starter at quarterback in Phillip Walker, and an All-AAC running back like Jahad Thomas, the offense should not have too much difficulty moving the ball against Penn State. On the other side of the field, Penn State will have a rookie quarterback facing a four-year starter.

Mix all of that in, and a don’t think a home-field advantage is going to be enough to rattle these Owls. In fact, I think the South Florida game at home later in the season will be much tougher to win.

Wednesday: Don’t Mess With Phil

Friday: Checking Off The Boxes

Monday: The Andres Blanco Of Temple

Wednesday (7/20): Recharging The Batteries

Friday (7/22): Owls Will Internet

Monday (7/25): The Unwashed Masses

Temple’s Dream Scenario

Hooter lifting the National Championship trophy. (Photoshop byChris Ventura from Rappid Development, a company run by recent Temple grads)

Hooter lifting the National Championship trophy.
(Photoshop by Chris Ventura from Rappid Development, a company run by recent Temple grads)

All of those “one-game-at-a-time” people please leave the room right now. As if what we’re about to discuss in the following paragraphs has any impact in Temple winning or losing a game on the field the rest of the way.

Are they all gone?

OK.

Now we can talk.

No one even put on the pads yesterday at Temple, but the Owls won by Memphis beating Cincinnati, 53-46, last night. The win drove another stake into Cincy’s hopes for winning the AAC East and put Temple squarely on the road to the AAC title game. Cincy looks like it will go on to a great season, either with Gunner Kiel or Hayden Moore as its quarterback. Memphis’ defense looks as vulnerable to Robby Anderson as it did in 2013. The only difference is that this time Robby has plenty of help.

Now onto the dream scenario: The BCS/Power 5 conglomerate has rigged the system by making it almost impossible for a Group of Five team like Temple to crash their national championship party.

The emphasis is on the word almost for a reason.

A Temple-Miami national semifinal would shut a lot of people up.

A Temple-Miami national semifinal would shut a lot of people up.

Temple is perhaps the only team in the G5 with a possibility of crashing the party due to having already beaten a team that can (but probably won’t) win the Big 10 championship coupled with another top 10 team in Notre Dame. So Temple is not just carrying the banner for 275,000 alumni, 39,000 students and 12,000 employees and the city of Philadelphia, but for the half of college football teams in the country being forced to play under a morally and financially corrupt system. If the Owls can break through the injustice, it would be a dream come true for those locked out of the P5.

The dream scenario would be this:

  • Temple runs the table and finishes 13-0 (12 regulars and the home win against Navy in the AAC title game);
  • Memphis beats everyone but Temple and Navy;
  • Cincinnati has a solid season to boost Temple’s rating, following its win over the fake Miami with a win over the real Miami;
  • The real Miami wins the ACC;
  • Penn State wins the Big 10;
  • Notre Dame finishes with one loss.

It would be impossible for the conglomerate to keep Temple out of the semifinal playoff under that scenario or even a scenario that fit all but one of those criteria. (For example, PSU can still have a great season but doesn’t have to win the Big 10.)

At 3-0 and with nine games left it is too early, but the fact that Temple fans can even dream this is really something special. So let the fans dream and the players and coaches take the one game at a time. Maybe the national semifinal game will be against Al Golden. (That would make the “Temple coach=Temple results” banners look really silly.) Now we can go.

All of those “one-game-at-a-time” people can return to the room right now.

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Tomorrow: Saturday TV

PSU vs. Temple: The Final Words

While the defense might have beaten PSU, I have a feeling Robby Anderson and the offense will have a big hand in beating Cincy on Saturday.

While the defense might have beaten PSU, I have a feeling Robby Anderson and the offense will have a big hand in beating Cincy on Saturday. Welcome back, Robby.  (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Amazing how in 24 hours Penn State went from terrific to terrible, but judging from the reaction in the middle of the Commonwealth, that’s exactly what happened.

For the 24 hours leading up to the game with Temple, this was supposed to be a special season in State College:

This according to SB Nation.

This according to SB Nation.

These are the results of a preseason poll in the Centre Daily Times.

These are the results of a preseason poll in the Centre Daily Times.

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Now, all of a sudden, according to Penn State fans, the same Christian Hackenberg who was so good putting up 31 points against Boston College in his previous game now stinks, as does the same offensive line he was in front of that day. The same PSU team coached by a great coach in James Franklin is now coached by a bum named James Franklin. The same guy who caught 82 balls last year in the Big 10 cannot get any separation this season.

Nowhere in the post-game analysis up there is the sense that Temple could be better than anyone expected. No one even remotely thought that Temple’s corners, Sean Chandler and Tavon Young, were more than up to the challenge or that playing the 11 returning starters from the overall No. 4 scoring defense in the country might have had something to do with 10 points.

No one factored into the result that Temple might have been supremely motivated, having a full year to stew and game plan over a sub par performance last Nov. 14.

Usually, in scenarios such as these, the truth lies somewhere in between but not in this case. What we have is a lot of people saying “Temple sucks” and the “reasons we lost to them” range anywhere from the Owls doing a Deflategate to a Spygate. (Yeah, we think that thread is ridiculous, too.)

Guess what? Nothing changed in a little over three hours of football on Saturday.

I’ll stick my neck out right now and say that Penn State will win 10 games this year, just like many of those preseason prognosticators wrote and that will be affirmation of Temple’s goodness, not Penn State’s deficiencies. Even if Temple loses to Cincinnati on Saturday, the Owls will still have a good season as well. Maybe just as good if not better. What we had on Saturday is a classic case of overreaction, like many of the MAC posts (I’m talking about you, Akron fans) who said, “I can’t believe we lost to Temple.” They got used to it. Penn State will, too. For today’s denial to turn into tomorrow’s acceptance, both the Owls and the Lions will have to have good seasons. One result on Saturday does not change that reality.

Post-Mortem: The only negative thing about this day was remembering a bunch of great Temple fans who never lived to see it. I’m talking about Steve Bumm, who came up and introduced himself to me outside what could loosely be called men’s room at Franklin Field in the Dark Ages. Like many fellow Temple fans I’ve met in similar circumstances we became good friends. Steve ran the “City of Palms” High School Basketball Christmas Tournament in Florida for many years before he died at age 51.

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Or Shane Artim, who never missed a home game. Or Dan Glammer, who tried to make all of the away games as well. Both of those good men died at the tender age of 46. When their friend, Jay Solnick, celebrated birthday number 47 a few years ago, I told him he was now here to stay because if you could stand Temple football as it existed then past 46, you’ve crossed the proverbial Rubicon. There was Dave Edwards, better known as NJ Schmitty, who brought his own unique sense of gallows humor to the last years of Bobby Wallace and the first couple of Al Golden. Maybe he just kept a few people sane with that perspective. People always knew he was there with the giant white Temple ‘][‘ above the Chevy Conversion van. That van and that ‘][‘ will make a return on Oct. 10, his brother  told me on Saturday. Sadly, Schmitty will not but we know this Susquehanna University grad would have loved beating Penn State.

Wes Sornisky says something to Wayne Hardin after a 17-17 tie at Cincinnati.

Wes Sornisky says something to Wayne Hardin after a 17-17 tie at Cincinnati.

There are many,many more, but we’ll just end with former kicker Wes Sornisky, who died in a fire at the far-too-young age of 64 last Dec. 18. Wes was singularly responsible for bringing all of the old players back and plopping them down in the Jetro Lot. They kept coming back and the involvement of the football alumni, once nearly nonexistent, went up exponentially every year. He deserves a lot of the credit for it. The saddest thing is that Wes is buried in a Potter’s Field with no headstone in Delaware, but I have a feeling that, given some time, that sad circumstance will be rectified. When I got a little melancholy on Saturday about that, people told me not to worry because they were watching from Heaven.

I cannot say for sure, but I think it was better to be there live than to watch from Heaven. No. 1 on my bucket list is now crossed off.

Tomorrow: We’re On To Cincinnati

5 Things to Get Excited/Worry About Tomorrow

Watching Temple head coach Matt Rhule address the media one final time before tomorrow’s 3:30 p.m. showdown with Penn State, people in the media had to be struck by one thing he said about being worried the “moment would be too big” for “the kids.” He said he did not think so but just by bringing it up, the thought must have entered his mind. Nowhere in that statement did Rhule express a concern that the moment might be too big for his coaching staff.

The butterflies will be there one way or another tomorrow (3:30) at Lincoln Financial Field and we are both excited and worried about these five things.

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  1. Offensive Coaching

Excited About:  Recognition. Both head coach Matt Rhule and OC Marcus Satterfield seemed to say the right things about the fiasco that was the 2014 Temple offense. Rhule said that he would go back to Temple’s offensive brand, which had been running the ball with a high skill level tailback behind a lead-blocking fullback.

Worried About: Backtracking: Nothing that happened the first two years has indicated Satterfield is comfortable calling that kind of offense. It’s not what he ran while winning all of those FCS National Championships at Tennessee-Chattanooga. (Oh wait. He didn’t win any.) Now they are talking about dropping the fullback concept and going back to being “more multiple.” More multiple was the reason they were 126th and last in FBS third-down efficiency.

  1. Defense

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Excited About: Experience. All 11 starters from the nation’s fourth-best scoring defense return and all 11 guys are flat-out ballers who do not back away from anyone.

Worried About: Lack of Praise. We’re not talking about endorsements from the media here, but a guy in No. 50, Praise Martin-Oguike,  who provided the the Owls with a pair dynamite playmakers at DE with Nate D. Smith. Praise might be out and Nate is tough as they come, but will PSU attack the soft underbelly of the Owls’ defense with sweeps to the other side? James Franklin does not get paid $4.4 million a year to overlook those types of things. Also worried about them not rushing Christian Hackenberg, but I do not think they are stupid enough to take that same passive approach two years in a row.

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  1. Running Game

Excited About: Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead. Those are two guys who give the Owls what they have not had since Bernard Pierce: A guy with the speed to take it to the house by merely turning the corner. Home run hitters is what they are.

Worried About: Caution. Jahad Thomas, the starter, does not seem to be a home run hitter but a guy who earned the job by having the fewest summer fumbles. Yet we’ve seen both Thomas (Houston game) and Zaire Williams (SMU) caught from behind and a premier Temple running back (Mike Busch, Tommy Sloan, Bobby Harris, Anthony Anderson, Zack Dixon, Kevin Duckett, Paul Palmer, Stacey Mack, Tanardo Sharps, Elmarko Jackson, Bernard Pierce, Matty Brown, and Montel Harris) simply does not get caught from behind. That is not what we do here at Temple. When we break into the open field, we turn it into six. Williams is now a LB. If Thomas breaks free, he must take it to the house to keep his job.

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  1. Tight Ends

Excited About: Colin Thompson. When was the last time Temple had a four-star recruit from the SEC (Florida) transfer here? Answer: Never. The guy has a four-star skill set: speed, size, blocking ability, great hands.

Worried About: Witness Protection. Evidently, no one told Rhule he was on the roster last year by the few times he was targeted. Why not use him the same way both Al Golden and Steve Addazio used Evan Rodriguez? Short little 5-yard waggle rollout passes to keep the rush off P.J. Walker, ala Chester Stewart at Maryland. Then toss an occasional jump pass in the back of the end zone, ala Stewart to Steve Manieri at the fake Miami a few years back. Both films are in the can at  the E-O. Rhule might be wise to dust them off one last time tonight.

hands

Even something this innocuous is an automatic 15-yard taunting penalty now.

  1. Robby Anderson

Excited About: Everything. This is a big time player who makes big-time plays against big-time teams. If, say, UCF was not a moment too big for him two years ago, Penn State will not be now. He’s got a 44-inch vertical leap, sub-4.5 speed, great hands and great moves in the open field.

Worried About: Rule changes. We’re not talking about Matt Rhule changes, but Anderson might not be aware of all the hand gestures that he made two years  ago after big catches—even innocent ones—are now automatic 15-yard penalties. He must be schooled to catch the ball, get to the end zone and simply give the ball back to Mr. Official without any histrionics. You would think Matt Rhule would have talked to him about this already, but one team in the TU-PSU game got a critical 15-yard penalty for a throat slash last year.

It was not Penn State.

Five One Keys to the Game

The key on Saturday will be the Owls sending MORE guys than the Nits can block, not like last year when PSU could use two lineman to block every rusher

The key on Saturday will be the Owls sending MORE guys than the Nits can block, not like last year when PSU could use roughly two linemen to block every rusher. (Photos by Temple Super Fan Ted DeLapp)

What was reserved for this space originally was at least one person’s opinion of what the five keys to the game would be on Saturday against Penn State.

There were five darn good ideas, cooked up all summer, but I thought, “Geez, who am I kidding?” There really is only one key to the game and that key opens up the other four doors: Put Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg on his backside early and often. Make him uncomfortable, take him down a lot, hit him more, and come at him from all sides. Make him think he’s going to get hit early on every play and he will give the ball up.

The guy is relatively immobile and has a documented history of happy feet and Temple should take advantage of that little bit of intelligence.

IF Owls go to play action, as promised, those 2 safeties in the middle of the field will be much closer to the line of scrimmage, allowing Owl receivers to get the separation they didn't get last year.

IF Owls go to play action, as promised, those 2 safeties in the middle of the field will be much closer to the line of scrimmage, allowing Owl receivers to get the separation they didn’t get last year.

In the six games Penn State lost a year ago, Hackenberg was sacked at least four times in each one. In five of those games, Hackenberg had 14 of his 15 interceptions and seven of his nine lost fumbles. Northwestern, coached superbly by Pat Fitzgerald, figured that out in a 29-6 win at State College, sacking Hackenberg only four times, but hitting him an additional 19. Temple fans would like to have 19 sacks and four hits, but they will gladly have what Northwestern had a year ago. This was the same Northwestern team that lost to Northern Illinois earlier the same season.

The Owls took the opposite approach a  year ago, more times than not dropping eight and rushing three. The Owls cannot afford to play that passively on Saturday.

Fitzpatrick is fighting an uphill battle at the Chicago-area school because the Wildcats have Ivy League type academic restrictions and those have limited his talent pool. What Stanford is to the Pac-12 and Vandy to the SEC, that’s what Northwestern is to the Big 10.  In addition, Northwestern has by far the smallest fan base in the conference. He can coach my team any day of the week, though. Northwestern might have had a losing season, but not because the team is ill-prepared or doesn’t game plan well.

Temple’s coaches could learn a lot from examining the Northwestern film. Let’s hope they dissected it like a frog in biology class.

Temple-Penn State: When A Game is More Than a Game

We often hear, especially in times like last week after a tough loss, that “it is, after all, only a game.”

That’s easy to say for every week other than Penn State Week for Temple people. For  people who say “it’s only a game; it’s’ not life-and-death” … it is life and death for us who have waited for a win over Penn State all of our lives and desperately want to see one before we go to the other side.

lewis

Mr. Katz

Thinking about all of the great Temple fans that I had the pleasure of talking to in the concourses at the Vet, Franklin Field, Temple Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field, like Steve Bumm (see No. 4 in this story), NJ Schmitty, Shane Artim and Dan Glammer, among others, who never got to see this and, of course, Mr. Katz.  They are all gone and none forgotten and never had a chance to see Temple beat Penn State before going to the other side. How many more of us will pass this year with no chance to see a win next year?

This win is much more than for a chance to participate in a bowl game. It is for the respect of an entire city and state. Philadelphia has been force-fed PSU football coverage for 50-plus years when they already had a hometown team. The day Temple beats Penn State will be the day you stop seeing Temple students wearing PSU sweatshirts on campus. It is the day you will finally hear Temple football talked about on the radio and television stations.

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Dan

So, for all those reasons, it is life and death. The Penn State game is much more than a game for Temple people and it has been for 73 years and it will be until the day Temple beats Penn State and hopefully that day is just a few hours away.

I think it is and I don’t think I’m looking through Cherry-and-White-colored glasses this time.

For all of the mismanagement on offense, Temple’s defense—particularly its defensive line—will win this game. Temple has an athletic and quick defensive line and Penn State has largely an inexperienced group of offensive linemen (and thanks to the Penn State fan who sent us that information). These guys are not walk-ons, but they’ve struggled. If Temple’s defensive line does what it did against Vanderbilt—with four SEC starters  returning from a team that went 9-4 in the best conference in America—the Owls should win this game. We are not asking the Temple defensive line to do something it is not capable of doing or has not done before.

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Shane

On offense, what the Owls have  is a lot of really good players with unique skills who are not being put in the best position to win. Temple should not be struggling to score 13 points against the likes of Houston, UCF and Memphis.  Temple has two potentially great blocking fullbacks in Kenny Harper and Marc Tyson and it rarely uses them that way. Temple has a potentially great tailback in Jahad Thomas and it rarely uses a fullback block at the point of attack to spring him for big gains. Temple has a potentially great tight end in Colin Thompson and rarely throws him the ball. Temple has at least two offensive linemen who will be playing on Sundays—Dion Dawkins and Kyle Friend—and rarely use those two with Thompson and Tyson running interference on toss sweeps to Thomas that could open up that entire offensive arsenal.

Speaking of that arsenal, Temple has a change-of-pace tailback who runs the ball well in space—Jamie Gilmore—and rarely uses him that way but fans jump all over him when he drops a catchable bomb when they should be jumping all over the coaches instead.  Keith Kirkwood (his OC called him Kirkland on a radio interview), John Christopher and Romond Deloatch—guys with magnets for hands and stick-em rubbed all over those magnets—are rarely thrown but instead target too many guys who do drop balls. The Owls have an extremely talented rollout quarterback, P.J. Walker, who they try to make a dropback passer far too much.



Owl Conundrum:
Temple gets no WR separation
or QB protection in those
formations but stubbornly
roll those formations out
week after week and wonder
why it struggles to score

This offense is a cluster-bleep of trying to fit good square pegs into horrible round holes.

What Temple has on offense is an OC from Tennessee-Chattanooga who is in love with a three- and four-wide formations that this personnel is not suited for and a head coach who is too nice a guy to over, err, rule his good friend. Temple gets no WR separation or QB protection in those formations but stubbornly roll those formations out week after week and wonder why it struggles to score.  With this talent and a more traditional two-back and I-formations with plenty of play-action, Temple is as formidable on offense as it has been on defense this year.

Maybe moreso.

For all that messing around on that side of the ball, I think Temple still wins this one in a game closer than it should be, say 13-10.

Penn State will get a great coach in Al Golden

While a James Franklin hire will be better for Temple fans, Penn State fans should not fret over landing Al Golden.

While a James Franklin hire will be better for Temple fans, Penn State fans should not fret over landing Al Golden.

When his coaching career is over,  Al Golden is going to sit down in front of his laptop and type the story of his life.

Like another coach who served time at Temple University, he’s already got the title of his book:  Deserve Victory. When John Chaney coached basketball at the school, one of his favorite phrases was “Winning Is An Attitude” and that turned out to be a best-selling book about Chaney, who found his way into college basketball’s Hall of Fame.

Sometime on Monday, Al Golden is likely (though not certain) to be named head  football coach at Penn State and even though he was a Nittany Lion football captain, very few Penn State fans know a lot about Al Golden. Temple fans, of which I count myself among the few and proud, do know a lot about him because his life was an open book for his five years of transforming the football program at that school.

Golden carried a binder around with him for all of those five years and, on the front cover, were the words: Deserve Victory. In its pages, were detailed notes on how to build a winning football program,  from hiring a staff to recruiting to dealing with the fans and the media and minute details on how both spring and summer practices are organized. There was even a part in there on the importance of summer football camps.

As a Temple football fan, I got to know Al Golden during those five years and, while no man is perfect, Penn State could get no better man to lead its football program. His attention to detail is impeccable. When he walks into a recruit’s home, he usually closes the deal and he’s coached at two places where the home stadium is usually half-full. That won’t exist at Penn State.

Does he have flaws? Sure. He’s not a great game day  coach, but there are very few of those around anyway. The current Temple head coach makes him look like Albert Einstein on game day.  If Penn State announces Al Golden as its next head coach in a press conference on Monday afternoon, it will be getting a very good head coach with a lot of great chapters left to write.

Take it from a Temple fan who saw his work up close and personal for five very good years.

Temple football tops on national website

Today's Temple at Notre Dame story led the national Rantsports.com college football website.

Today’s Temple at Notre Dame story led the national Rantsports.com college football website.

Temple was skewed recently by a Notre Dame writer who pulled a lot of the pre-Al Golden history and tried to portray Temple as the program that existed prior to Al Golden’s arrival in 2005.

Fortunately, astute college football fans know that, except for last year’s brain cramp by Steve Addazio, Temple has really been one of the most successful programs in the country over the past five seasons.

Today, my story on the Temple at Notre Dame game led the national Rantsports.com website.

The complete story can be read here by clicking over the first three words of this sentence. Rantsports.com employs a team of professional editors hired away from major newspapers across the country. Only professional journalists are considered for hire as part Rantsports.com’s writing team.

The Notre Dame writer’s version  on Bleacher Report doesn’t even deserve a read but I will link it over the first three letters of this sentence as a point of reference. Bleacher Report  employs no editors and allows just about anyone to write for its site.  As a result, there is a big difference in credibility of the two sites.

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