Four And Bowl To Go?

The postseason prognosticating began almost as soon as time expired on Temple’s Oct. 11 win against Tulsa. Fans and media alike were plotting what they projected to be the most logical paths for Temple to achieve bowl eligibility this season. Fans and media are now redrawing their early drafts of Temple’s possible path to the postseason after a 31-10 loss to Houston.

The postseason prognosticating began almost as soon as time expired on Temple’s Oct. 11 win against Tulsa. Fans and media alike could be heard dissecting the Owls’ remaining schedule in the bowels of Lincoln Financial Field, plotting what they projected to be the most logical paths for Temple to achieve bowl eligibility this season.

By Friday night, the postseason chatter on North Broad Street had slowed. Fans and media are now redrawing their early drafts of Temple’s possible path to the postseason after a 31-10 loss to Houston.

Temple (4-2, 2-1 AAC) will now embark on the second half of the 2014 season with the American Athletic Conference’s toughest opposition, and a trip to Happy Valley still to come. It’s a stretch of schedule that would look at lot less daunting as a 5-1 team needing just a single win to secure its bowl-eligible status.

Still, Temple is 4-2, and further more, it has left fans wanting more. Anything less than six wins will obviously be a disappointment considering Temple started the year 4-1.

So, can Temple do it? Can the Owls shake at least two wins out of the remaining six games? Or will the remaining six opponents, currently sporting a combined record of 21-16 (as of Oct. 18), block Temple’s path to a December trophy game?

I believe that Temple projects out as a 6/7-win team and will advance to the fifth bowl game in program history. The Owls might only get in by the skin of their teeth and it’s very possible they finish the last six games with a 2-4 record, but they’ll get in, and that’s a monumental step for head coach Matt Rhule’s program. Here’s how they’ll do it:

Oct. 25 at Central Florida (4-2, 2-0 AAC)

PREDICTION: Loss; Owls drop to 4-3.

OUTLOOK: This is a strong, battle-tested UCF team. Temple would need some big breaks and a lot of sharp play from its key players to emerge with the road win. UCF has looked formidable throughout the season, which began with a narrow loss to Penn State on a last-second field goal in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin, Ireland.

A loss to Missouri dropped the Knights to 0-2 against “power conference” opponents. However, UCF appears to have gained plenty from its encounters with top competition as it will enter the Temple game riding a four-game wining streak. The streak began against Bethune-Cookman and continued against the same Houston team that handled the Owls. UCF also beat BYU in overtime and then Tulane in its most recent game.

Nov. 1 versus East Carolina (5-1, 3-0 AAC)

PREDICTION: Loss; Owls drop to 4-4.

OUTLOOK: Unlike UCF, East Carolina is a game in which everything could go right for Temple and it could still lose. That’s how impressive the Pirates have been this season.

ECU turned heads in consecutive weeks with a respectable early-season loss at South Carolina before going on the road again one week later and upsetting then-nationally ranked Virginia Tech, 28-21.

Any doubts about ECU’s legitimacy were erased Oct. 4 against North Carolina when the Pirates hung 70 points on the Tar Heels. Quarterback Shane Carden is drawing national attention with his performances, having already thrown for 16 touchdowns and more than 2,100 yards. Enough said — Temple will have it’s hands full against ECU and victory is unlikely.

Nov. 7, versus Memphis

PREDICTION: Toss up.

OUTLOOK: Count the Memphis game as a definite “maybe” for Temple. The Tigers, widely considered to be improved from last season, are hanging tough at 3-3 overall. They won games they were supposed to win against Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee and Cincinnati. As far as losses go, Memphis didn’t show much in its power conference games against UCLA and Ole Miss.

The Bruins are merely a fringe top-25 team while the Rebels played arguably their sloppiest game of the year and still routed Memphis, 24-3. One item on Memphis’ resume that should concern Owls fans is how the Tigers played Houston, a team that roughed Temple up pretty badly. Memphis’ showing against Houston was miles ahead of what Temple put forth against the Cougars, but even that doesn’t mean Temple is doomed in this game.

Nov. 15, at Penn State

PREDICTION: Loss.

OUTLOOK: Short answer... Not happening. It’s obvious that Penn State is still feeling the affects of the NCAA’s scholarship reduction and remains in rebuild mode. But don’t get your hopes up just because PSU seems vulnerable — Temple fans know all too well that PSU has appeared to be vulnerable in the past and still managed to wallop the Owls. One of these years it’s going to happen for Temple — they’ll break the PSU streak and beat the Nits for the first time since 1941. Just not this year.

Nov. 29 versus Cincinnati

PREDICTION: Win; Temple projects to have 5/6 wins at this point.

OUTLOOK: Count this as a win for Temple. Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel is an impressive passer, but imagine how good freshman corner Sean Chandler is going to be by that point in the season with almost a full year under his belt. The same goes for junior Tavon Young and the rest of the the Owls secondary — they’ll have a true understanding of who they are and what they’re capable of. If Temple’s secondary can keep a lid on Kiel, the Owls take this game.

Dec. 6 at Tulane

PREDICTION: Win; Temple projects to be bowl eligible at this point with 6/7 wins.

OUTLOOK: #BowlBound. If Temple drops either the Memphis or Cincinnati game and the Owls enter the Tulane game needing one last victory, then surely they’re going to leave New Orleans with it.

Currently standing at 2-5, it is likely that the Green Wave will be out of contention by the time Temple comes to town. It’s also likely that Tulane will be playing for little more than pride in this game, and pride is hard to muster when the only thing separating a bad team from its long-awaited offseason break is 60 minutes on the game clock. Combine that with a Temple team possibly playing desperate and for its postseason life, and you’ve got yourself a win for the Owls.

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