by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
The similarities are not uncanny.
Probably because few, if any, exist.
Aside from records, statistics and position in the American Athletic Conference standings after 11 games, the 2016 and 2015 editions of Temple University football have very little in common.
Yeah, many of the same players have dotted each roster, chief among them quarterback Phillip Walker, running back Jahad Thomas and defensive Haason Reddick, but the make-up of those squads and their seasons are almost diametrically opposed. Since starting slow, Walker has been almost lethally efficient the last four games, completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 960 yards and 8 TDs against just 2 interceptions. Meantime, Thomas has become a dynamite receiving option and Reddick a bona fide first-team All-America candidate.
Put it this way, unlike their immediate predecessors, these Owls spread the ball around, they leave little doubt to the outcome of games and they show strength down the stretch.
A year ago at this time, Temple was limping to the finish line, losing two of their next four games after a 7-0 start, a stretch that served as a precursor to an ugly 1-2 close-out to a 10-4 campaign that kinda hollowed out many of the positive vibes that actually got area fans to stand up and take notice.
With Saturday afternoon's dominating, 31-0 decision at Tulane, Matt Rhule's current crop is riding a five-game win streak that includes an obliteration of its primary challenger in the AAC East Division (South Florida) and back-to-back shutouts, as the Owls handled Connecticut, 21-0, their last time out two weeks ago.
Yeah, this definitely feels different.
Like, umm, kinda easy ... instead of gnashing-teeth difficult.
Frankly, right now, the only thing seeming to stand in the Owls' way of a conference crown, top-25 ranking and quality bowl game is a matchup against the West Division leader in the AAC title contest in a few weeks. The Middies and their option attack might give Rhule and Co. nightmares before, during and after such a meeting, should it come to likely fruition, mostly because Temple already endured embarrassment at similar service-academy, run-oriented hands this season.
Remember Army in the season opener? The Owls gave up 329 yards on 67 carries in a stunning, 15-point loss. Navy just racked up 480 on 68 against East Carolina on Saturday.
Winning that contest would be a true testament to just how far Temple has come since September, and confirm that, really, it not only is different than last season, but better.