There are three games left in the football team’s season, and it’s pretty simple what it has to do.
The Owls stand at 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the Mid-American Conference. They are in fourth place in the MAC East, one game behind front-runners Akron and Buffalo, which both stand at 3-2. Bowling Green is in third place at 3-3, coming off a 28-3 drubbing of Ohio last Saturday in Athens, Ohio.
So, despite their best efforts, the Owls are in the hunt for the MAC East title. Sure the four best teams in conference reside in the MAC West, as Ball State, Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois have a combined record of 19-3 in conference, but only one of those squads can make the MAC Championship game Dec. 5 at Ford Field in Detroit.
A team from the MAC East has to be there, and that’s where Temple comes in. This is what has to go right for the Owls to get to that title game.
Temple wins out.
Seems pretty simple, right?
First up is Kent State, which stands at 1-4 in conference and 2-7 overall. Its two wins have come against an FCS school in Delaware State and one of the worst teams in the MAC in Miami (Ohio). Not really impressive.
They also give up more than 30 points per game, and with the Owls’ offense back to normal with redshirt senior Adam DiMichele under center, you would figure the Cherry and White should have no problem putting points on the board.
The Owls then face Eastern Michigan at home Nov. 22, a team that sits 2-8 overall and 1-5 in the MAC. But the Eagles had a tough schedule and are better than their record indicates, so that’s no cupcake.
Finally, it’s Senior Day Nov. 28, as the Owls meet Akron the day after Thanksgiving. If all goes right for the Cherry and White, this will be the biggest game in the last two decades for Temple football.
Akron beats Buffalo Thursday.
The Owls already lost to the Bulls (on a last-second Hail Mary, remember?), so they cannot afford to be tied atop the MAC East standings with a team they lost to, as head-to-head match-ups are the first tiebreaker.
A win by Akron and Temple can then see a complicated tiebreaking scenario where its loss to Buffalo doesn’t kill things. But that’s all contingent on the Owls beating the Zips Nov. 28 at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Akron-Buffalo game will be on ESPNU, so all Owls fans should keep an eye on that one.
Go away Bowling Green.
The Falcons are the lone MAC East team the Owls don’t play, so the head-to-head match-up doesn’t come into effect. The Falcons have also beaten Akron and have a game with Buffalo, at home, Nov. 21.
That could mean a four-team tiebreaker, which would be impossible to predict at this point, or it could mean Bowling Green swooping in and stealing the MAC East title, even if Temple were to win out.
So, with that said, the Falcons just need to fly off and leave.
OK, then what?
Even if the Owls somehow win out and somehow come out of the three or four team traffic jam atop the MAC East standings, which seems unlikely considering how they’ve played this year, they would be at a disadvantage going against one of the West teams in the MAC title game.
Winning the MAC title game would be the only road to a bowl game, as a 6-7 Temple team probably wouldn’t be bowl eligible and definitely wouldn’t be an attractive commodity with more deserving teams residing in the MAC West.
But, the fact that we’re even having this conversation is a huge step up from where the program was just a couple years ago.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.