FLORIDA FIASCO: OK, we got it. The Gators enter the season a forgotten former power, promptly stun the nation with a 6-0 start and vault into the top 10 only to see linchpin QB Will Grier get suspended for a year by the NCAA after being caught using a banned, performance-enhancing – and now they’re seen as a veritable house of cards, ready to crumble at a moment’s notice, and likely to crumble when visiting fellow SEC unbeaten LSU today.
The issue here is … if the team is going to be called to the carpet and put on display for all to criticize, could its symbol for stupidity look something more like an actual weightlifter than a 1970s pornstar-turned-yoga instructor?
C’mon, this kid is now Exhibit A for illegal PED use? By some accounts, he gained 40 pounds or so in a single year using the supplement Ligandrol. By others, it was something else. Does it even matter? He’s still scrawny, pretty frail-looking for an FBS-level athlete. Frankly, the kid can play a little bit for sure, but he ain’t going to be the poster boy for some product at GNC any time soon. SACK MEN: It’s an amazing thing to ponder, a testament to the dedication of young athletes who chose not to give up and an absolute rip job on the accuracy of that old recruiting adage that “if you’re good enough, they’ll find you.” Umm, not quite …
Standing atop the NCAA FBS sacks leaderboard are Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib and Wisconsin Joe Schobert. The former has 10 sacks to lead the nation, the latter has 9 to rank right behind. Both players are former walk-ons at their schools.
Both are prime examples that recruiting is an inexact science whose “professors” are often wrong. Nassib’s tale is particularly interesting when you consider his freakin’ brother starred at Syracuse and currently backs up Giants QB Eli Manning. Uhh, did recruiter’s lose the Nassib’s address? BOISE BOMBED: Maybe it’s the blue turf, or the almost Oregon-like attempt at being edgy with uniforms and helmets. Whatever it is, Boise State has failed to gain favor here. It’s just been an annoying outfit, forever forced upon the nation as an underdog achieving things normally reserved for the likes of Alabama and Ohio State … or so we’ve been told.
Anyway, with that, things such as Friday night’s Broncos implosion at Utah State truly serve as guilty pleasures. The Aggies ultimately won, 52-26. But the true beauty was a first half that saw No. 21 Boise turn the ball over seven times and fall behind 45-10. Take that, ’Bama and OSU. UPSET WATCH: Unranked Arizona State prevailing at No. 4 Utah seems to be the trendy pick, but not feeling that here. Unranked Southern Cal winning at No. 14 Notre Dame would be interesting, especially given that seats for that one now start at $201, according to StubHub, if you can get a ticket. Unranked Eastern Michigan stunning No. 22 Toledo would be nice, since it would end the Rockets’ likely derailment of more worthy non-Power 5 teams getting consideration for New Year’s Day bowls.
Nah, the one “upset” vibe that has been pretty strong all week here is the one that sees No. 20 Northwestern knocking No. 17 Iowa from the unbeaten ranks. Reason being simple – gut feeling is that the Wildcats are better. A lot better. They’re also at home.
Temple's Nate D. Smith drills Houston ballcarrier Ken Farrow in an American Athletic game two years ago. This is a top-5 YDKJ photo of a great 'program' player for the Owls who is due for a breakout game.
Temple’s What 2 Watch vs. UCF LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD, TONIGHT, 7:30, CBSSN, 97.5 FM THE FANATIC
1. Focus and attitude This is going to be a familiar refrain each week until the Owls show they are able, and good enough, to come out of the locker room and play a complete game against, well, any team. If anything has been red flag-ish to this 5-0 start by the Owls, it is their ever-present slow, in-game starts. Penn State, Cincinnati, Massachusetts, Charlotte and Tulane all had chances to get up, if not way up, on the Owls early on – but were not able to do so. For once, it would be nice to see Temple get up immediately and just take out a team systematically from the opening kickoff on. You’d think a winless Central Florida would offer the perfect opportunity to do so, but keep in mind, this almost identical matchup occurred two years ago at the same site, with the same teams, just roles reversed, and a then-hapless Temple pushed the Knights to the limit before falling, 39-36, in the final seconds. 2. Getting pressure on whoever QBs for UCF Last week’s four-sack effort was a welcome change from the almost pass rush-less efforts the prior three weeks, which yielded just two sacks combined, both by Nate D. Smith, against Cincy, UMass and Charlotte. After the 10-sack performance against Penn State, you had the impression the Owls were going to maul opposing aerial attacks all season. That has not been the case. If anything, prior to beating Tulane seven days ago and holding its offense completely in check, the Owls had one of the most porous defenses, in terms of yardage allowed, in the country. Hopefully, what they did to the Green Wave does prove to be a sign of things to come because with the level of competition about to pick up five days at East Carolina and then the week after against Notre Dame, Temple will need some sort of pass rush to stay their current positive course. The Knights have utilized three QBs – Bo Schneider, Justin Holman and Tyler Harris – thus far this season, so the Owls may not know exactly who they’ll be facing from snap to snap today. Doesn’t matter. Whoever it is, they need to get after him … and get him to the ground. 3. More touches for Owls backup RBs Granted, Tulane may not have offered the best proving ground to gauge just how good freshmen Ryquell Armstead and David Hood are, but the two certainly seem worthy of more time on the field, especially if that gives feature back Jahad Thomas a chance to recharge on the sideline. Frankly, Thomas has been overused up to this point, and late-game fumbles like he had at Cincy and UMass were the results of that. Him being as fresh as possible will be critical to Temple’s chances the second half of this season, and the more breathers he can get in order to make that possible the better. Hood, the third-stringer, actually led Temple in carries last week with 16 and hauled in a 10-yard TD pass as well. Armstead, though, is the one who really seems to have the “it” factor, wrapped in a heavily muscled and surprisingly quick package. He accounted for two rushing TDs last week. More of the same by him, and fellow South Jersey product Hood, tonight would not be all that surprising. 4. Less clamps on Walker It’s real nice to read all the positives about Walker’s more refined, evolved play, but the reality is, head coach Matt Rhule and Co. have made a conscious decision to go the “safe” route with the junior QB, limiting what he is able to do – which, keeping it real, limits much of the brilliance this kid could bring the Owls’ offensive equation. With his arm, wheels and natural hair-trigger reflexes, Walker is capable of some really special things. Perhaps no better example of that was his outing against UCF the last time the two met here. Just a freshman two years ago, he threw for 382 yards and four TDs, and ran for another, in allowing Temple to match haymaker for haymaker with a team bound for a BCS bowl. The guy feeling here is, for this Owls’ season to truly reach its ultimate potential, the clamps have to come off Walker … and that better happen soon. Time’s a-wastin’ ...
5. Breakout game for unsung hero on D Perhaps this is a sentimental suggestion, buoyed by an appreciation for all Smith, a senior DL, has done for the program and the roles he has accepted and continued to perform. Reality is, all the hype surrounding Tyler Matakevich could just as easily be his had their career paths continued on the same line as they initially started. He, not his classmate, was the young, stud LB back when the two started getting major time as freshman back in 2012. In fact, Smith, the younger brother of former Eagles TE and ex-Rutgers star L.J. Smith, was the more impactful player of the two. But T-Mat’s consistency and tackle production was just too hard to ignore and he kept improving, almost pushing Smith into the shadows. Smith then was bounced around from spot to spot as Rhule tried to get his best defenders on the field. Eventually, he landed at DL – at 6-foot, 235 pound – and, right now, he ranks among the top sackers in the country with 5.5 this season. All along, he has proven to be a steady, stable presence on the defensive side of the ball. It just seems he is ready for a breakout game at some point. If anyone on the Temple roster has earned one, it is Smith.