It took three games for all the buzz following a 10-win season in 2015 to fade.
Army West Point sucked the life out of Temple fans by running for 329 yards in the Owls’ season-opening 28-13 loss. Two weeks later, Penn State held off a late comeback to beat Temple 34-27, and push off any potential re-excitement of Temple’s fan base.
After Temple fell to 1-2 three weeks into its season, some were already willing to throw the season in the trash.
The lack of interest showed with a dip in attendance.
In 2015, more than 69,000 people showed up for games against Penn State and Notre Dame. Without any marquee matchups this season, a drop in attendance was expected.
After 34,005 people came to see the Army game, the Owls have yet to eclipse 30,000 fans at a home game this season. Last year, they did that five times. The only 2015 home game with less than 30,000 fans in attendance was the game against Connecticut during Thanksgiving break.
The Owls are 7-3, sitting atop the American Athletic Conference East Division standings with a very good chance at going back to a conference championship game. Even a shot at heading to a New Year’s Six Bowl is not out of the question if Temple wins The American and a few other teams lose.
Yes, this year’s Army loss didn’t look good, but the loss against Penn State was probably expected and looks even better now that the Nittany Lions are in the Top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings. Temple was an underdog in its loss to Memphis. But Temple beat South Florida, arguably the best team in The American, and so far has handled everyone else on its schedule.
ESPN ranked Temple No. 64 in its preseason Football Power Index and gave the team an 11.7 percent chance to win The American. The Owls are now No. 47 in the FPI and have a 53.9 percent chance to win the conference. They’re actually outperforming expectations, if those expectations were realistic, calculated ones.
In its 69 years, the Temple football program has 16 seasons of seven or more wins, eight seasons of eight or more wins and just five seasons of nine or more wins. Only five of those seven-win seasons came after 1990.
Since 1989, Temple has won four games or less 19 times, including a winless season in 2005. The Owls were removed from the Big East Conference in 2004. It wasn’t too long ago when the team only won two games in 2013.
Maybe winning 10 games and going to a bowl game became norms under coach Matt Rhule, but right now that type of season is an outlier. The Owls have won 10 games twice and gone to just five bowl games in school history. Temple has never played in back-to-back bowl games.
With seven wins, it’s likely Temple ends up in a bowl game again this year. If the Owls can win their last two regular season games, which they’ll be favored in, they’ll give themselves a shot at 10 wins once again.
Forget the loss to Army, forget the heartbreak against Penn State, Temple fans. Your team is having another historic season, the kind of season that hasn’t come around too often at Temple. There’s no guarantee this type of success will happen next year or the year after that. Enjoy it.
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.