Well, the boys went 2-0 over the weekend. Could nitpick here and there, and maybe even whine a little bit about Temple RB Ryquell Armstead once again proving that skill, toughness and being chiseled out of granite does not automatically keep you from being injury prone.
But we progress …
The Owls, now 3-3 after obliterating East Carolina, 49-6, last Saturday, despite questions about their discipline, strategy and Armstead’s health, pose the greatest threat this side of No. 23 South Florida to American Athletic rival Central Florida’s chances at repeating as conference champ, thanks to a deep roster and a strong-armed QB in Anthony Russo whose potential stretches well outside the box of what most believe capable at Temple.
Illinois, meanwhile, is 3-2 courtesy of a 38-17 drubbing of down-and-out Big Ten foe Rutgers the same afternoon, and, frankly, almost laughably because you don’t expect such things with the Illini, but they possess one of the nation’s best run-oriented backfields. How good is it? Well, put it this way, Mike Epstein had a pretty unproductive day … only to cap it with a 42-yard scoring burst that sealed the deal.
Both of my schools — gulp — are good enough to challenge for a bowl bid. This year. Seriously. Temple, in fact, could challenge for the AAC crown — yeah, even with the 10th-ranked Knights standing in the Owls’ way Nov. 1 and the Bulls the same two weeks later. Temple is that good when it plays well, which, usually, happens when Armstead is feeling right.
TEMPLE 2015 REVISITED
Ironically, the team that could give the Owls the most trouble in the AAC is the most similar to, well, themselves, circa 2015.
Temple caught the nation’s attention that fall, and even managed to steal a few moments of attention from Philly fans during — gasp — the Eagles season. Started the campaign 7-0, beat Penn State, played Notre Dame to a virtual standstill and peaked at No. 20 in the national polls before finishing 10-4.
Cincy, circa 2018? The Bearcats are 6-0, even tossing in a couple nail-biters that earmarked that Temple ’15 squad. They’re balanced on offense (RB Michael Warren II and QB Desmond Ridder are virtual carbon copies of Jahad Thomas and P.J. Walker in terms of production), and they’re stingy on defense — just the way those Owls were.
Of course, standing in their way of starting 7-0 like Temple did … will be Temple ’18 on Oct. 20 at Lincoln Financial Field.
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Won’t make any bones about it.
Even for me.
Still, with that, comes a reality check … if you want to maintain any semblance of sense or sanity.
To wit, to me, you’re not going to find better quarterbacks than Penn State’s Trace McSorley and West Virginia’s Will Grier. Different, yes. Better, no.
That being shared, The truth of the matter is neither of them were going to challenge for Heisman honors this fall on an even playing field. Both had obstacles in front of them that Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins did not, mostly in perception.
Not only in regards to ability, but their teams.
Face it, despite the nation getting geeked up over McSorley’s “Vince Young in the Rose Bowl” reenactment two Saturdays ago for a few hours, the Nittany Lions’ senior needed either A) to put up those kinds of numbers (286 yards passing, 175 rushing) each week in 2018 to be seriously considered or B) to win that game against Ohio State or, more likely, C) both A and B.
Wasn’t going to happen with the Lions’ share-the-wealth approach, and didn’t happen thanks to James Franklin and Co.’s last-minute decision-making implosion.
Grier? He actually had a little more leeway than McSorley in that he wasn’t pigeonholed as the smallish, over-achieving scrapper — which is kinda comical since the PSU signal-caller is far more athletic and more physically imposing, just shorter. Grier has been a “known” for half a decade, and brought about him some mystical-type cachet in that he was really good as a freshman at Florida, but the Gators didn’t want him.
Oh, well, WVU’s gain. Big time.
He produced immediately, and has made the Mountaineers quite dangerous. Plus, he put up gawdy numbers — and wins. But, now, you take a look at his latest effort (332 yards, 4 TDs passing against Kansas), and it’s the negatives that stand out. He did have three picks in the game. He missed some throws. WVU didn’t win big … and for Grief to be a Heisman contender, it needs to against most teams.
Thing is, there is nothing to knock Tagovailoa, Murray or Haskins about. They’re been spectacular. The teams — outside of Alabama, of course — haven’t always been. But that never was going to factor for their individual hopes.
You think Murray and Oklahoma losing to Texas last Saturday, or Haskins actually getting outplayed by McSorley (much like Ohio State did most of the night against Penn State) mattered? Think again.
That’s just the way it is.
But don’t feel too sorry for guys like Grier and McSorley. At least they ain’t McKenzie Milton, who’s in the midst of posting pinball-wizard numbers again while leading Central Florida to another unbeaten season, or Laviska Shenault Jr., the Colorado wide receiver who’s the best player by far the eyes behind these words have seen this season but remains mostly anonymous throughout the country.
Reality, people. It is what it is.