Jacobs: Through struggle, Big East season has benefits

The Owls will have their hands full this Big East season, but their efforts will be for a worthy cause.

Ibrahim Jacobs

Ibrahim JacobsThe newly renovated Edberg-Olson Hall standing at 10th and Diamond streets has the inner workings comparable to other Big East Conference facilities. It joins last year’s bowl win as the current trademarks of coach Steve Addazio’s tenure at Temple. Inside, in a hallway facing the practice field, frames hang for offensive and defensive players of the week to have their pictures displayed. Addazio only honors these players on weeks that coincide with a Temple victory. They currently hang devoid of pictures, and they could potentially remain that way for upwards of a month.

The Owls had the pleasure of being able to rest two out of the past three weeks as they had a bye week before and after the showdown with Penn State. By the time they take on South Florida on Oct. 6, they will have played only one game in 27 days. While the team benefits from being able to enter Big East play well rested, it will likely come back to haunt players as the season progresses. They now have the challenge of playing eight straight games with no bye week, seven of which are against conference opponents.

Temple fields one of the youngest teams in the Big East, with only nine combined starters returning. South Florida will be returning that number of starters on offense alone.

After facing a South Florida team that lost 30–17 to Florida State, the No. 3 team in the country, the Owls’ schedule doesn’t get any easier. They then face a Connecticut team that beat Maryland before squaring-off with two nationally ranked teams in three weeks in Rutgers and Louisville. In this six-week stretch, Temple will also play Pittsburgh, which beat No. 13 Virginia Tech, and Cincinnati, which beat the same Pittsburgh team. The Owls’ best chance for a win will be on Nov. 17 against Army, which is ranked No. 124 in college football with 48 passing yards per game.

Not to say that the Owls cannot win until they face Army, or that nothing will change in the next two months, but they certainly will not be favored in any of the games.

Temple’s defense is anchored by a redshirt-freshman linebacker, Nate D. Smith, who leads the team in tackles. The offensive line features one redshirt-freshman starter and one true freshman. They don’t have the same talent at the receiver position that they did last year to convert big plays and stretch the field. The team is poised to have success for years to come, especially once Addazio is able to recruit to the Big East, it just isn’t at that level yet.

While the move back to the Big East was a short-term goal when the Addazio era began, the rapid nature of the events leaves Temple in a predicament in which it doesn’t have the size and talent to compete against high-powered Big East opponents on a weekly basis. The Owls certainly aren’t mad that the Big East move took place so quickly, but it has left them thrown into a position with a summer of preparation to convert from playing teams like the Akron and Bowling Green State to Louisville and Rutgers.

The effect of this will be two-fold. Primarily, Temple is playing with house money. Nobody expected Temple to have instant success in a new environment. With no pressure and limited expectations, the team will get exponential recruiting benefits and experience simply from playing more notable opponents.

The negative effects of a season in which the Owls struggle to win games could grow large, however. The players and fans need to remember what Temple has accomplished in making this conference jump and take this season with a grain of salt. Simply losing confidence and failing to show up for games will reverse the mindset that the university has tried to instill throughout the student body. The culture of the football program is changing, and while it might not be reflected on the scoreboard this season, good things are coming.

The wins will come, maybe not this year, but soon. The Owls are a young team primed for future success, but adjusting to their new conference will take time. Wins may be hard to come by this season, but with a limited amount of seniors and a team that will get more experienced as it plays more games, the outlook for future years remains optimistic. The picture frames may be empty more times than not this year, but don’t expect them to stay blank for too long.  

Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at ibrahim.jacobs@temple.edu or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.

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