The time has come for the Temple football team to put up or shut up.
The Owls stand at 4-5 and in need of two wins to make it to their first bowl game since 1979. The first of those two wins will have to come this Saturday against the 4-4 Syracuse Orangemen.
A loss this weekend would eliminate the Owls from bowl contention; a win would keep hopes alive.
“Our backs are to the wall,” coach Bobby Wallace said. “I’ve been in three national championship playoffs. You play four games every week your back is to the wall. Pressure is part of Division-I football.”
Temple had a chance to gain a fifth win against Boston College last weekend but lost big, 31-3. The loss took Temple’s bowl chances out of their hands and into the hands of Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
“Emotion is very important and emotion should have been there Saturday,” Wallace said. “I think everybody around the team thought the team was ready. We made mental mistakes, bad preparation, bad coaching. We have to do better.”
If the Owls win out they will go to a bowl. Which bowl they will be in is another story. We will now try to explain the bowl situation in the Big East.
The conference is eligible for bids in the Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, Insight.com Bowl, an at-large bid in the Las Vegas Bowl and either the Oahu or Aloha Bowl. (The ACC and Big East each send one team to either the Oahu or Aloha to face two teams from the PAC-10. If Notre Dame, an independent school, does not win its remaining games against Boston College, Rutgers and Southern Cal, they would probably take one of the ACC or Big East spots in those bowls).
Miami, barring any unforseen losses, will go to a Bowl Championship Series game. The Hurricanes are currently ranked No. 3 in the BCS behind Florida State (who Miami defeated) and Oklahoma. The top two teams at the end of the season play for the national championship in the Orange Bowl. Miami will either make that game or another BCS Bowl.
“I think Frank Beamer (coach of Virginia Tech) says it best: ‘ By the end of the year it’ll all take care of itself,'” Wallace said. “Florida State still has to play Florida. Miami is in a good situation but they have to go to Syracuse. I think by the time the season ends it will take care of itself.”
Virginia Tech is also pretty sure about its New Year’s plans. They will be going to the Gator Bowl to take on a challenger from the ACC, most likely Clemson.
The Owls (4-5, 1-4 Big East) need to win their remaining games to keep playing in December. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are two tough teams, teams with an edge over Temple.
The goal for this season’s team, according to coach Wallace and players, has been to go to a bowl game. They haven’t been to one in 21 years and were hoping 2000 would be different. Whether or not it is different will be seen in the next two weeks.
“I think winning six games was our goal,” Wallace said. “We’ll be disappointed if we don’t get to that goal. It doesn’t mean we haven’t made strides, but I think we’re at a point now where we can realistically make a goal to win six games and have a winning season each year. We’ll be disappointed with anything less.”
Experience will come into play as both Syracuse and Pittsburgh know what it’s like to have this much pressure down the stretch. In the remaining games, Temple will have to play perfect.
Two performances like last week against Boston College will be unacceptable.
“We’ve been making strides towards getting to that goal,” Wallace said, “and it might just happen next year instead of this year.”
But Wallace and the Owls hope it happens this year.
The Eagles (6-3, 3-3), coming off their win over Temple, are the only other conference team to be assured a bowl spot. They are 6-3 and finish the season with games at Notre Dame and Miami. They will have a tough time in those contests and may lose both. But even a 6-5 record will guarantee them a bowl bid.
Boston College will probably travel to Hawaii for either the Oahu or Aloha Bowl.
The Panthers (5-3, 2-2) have three tests ahead. Pittsburgh started off the year very promisingly with four straight wins. They beat Penn State in that winning-streak, 12-0. They play Miami this Saturday, then come to play the Owls, and finish the season against West Virginia.
Since the first four games, Pittsburgh has beaten Boston College, but lost to Syracuse and a surprise loss to North Carolina last Saturday. The 4-5 Tarheels beat Pittsburgh 20-17.
If the Panthers don’t beat Miami, a win at Temple could put the Panthers into a bowl. But if Temple wins, like everyone at North Broad hopes, Pittsburgh will finish their season with a bowl at stake on November 24 when they face-off against West Virginia.
The Orangemen (4-4, 2-2) defeated West Virginia with 10 seconds left last Saturday, 31-27. That win put Syracuse two away from a bowl.
An opportunity to get closer to that goal comes this Saturday against Temple. If Syracuse fails this weekend and drops to 4-5, things will start to look gloom. Following Temple, Syracuse plays Miami with a bowl bid on the line. Two losses would knock Syracuse out of the bowl picture for the first time in six years.
For that to happen, Temple needs to play its best football this Saturday. Any mistakes will assure Syracuse a victory and a probably bowl bid following an easy game against Rutgers.
West Virginia (4-4, 2-3) needs to win its remaining three games for a bid. They play Rutgers this weekend and East Carolina next weekend. East Carolina is 5-3 and defeated Syracuse earlier in the season pretty convincingly.
Pittsburgh is the final opponent for the Mountaineers.
This weekend’s game will be another chance for West Virginia coach Don Nehlen to record his 200th career victory. Nehlen will look to record at least 201 career victories before he leaves West Virginia after this season. Nehlen has a 199-127-8 record all-time in his 30-year coaching record.
Once again, Rutgers will have to accept being the worst team in the Big East. The Scarlet Knights are 3-5 and are winless in the conference. Their wins have come against Navy, Buffalo and Villanova (I-AA).
Mathematically, they could win out (West Virginia, Notre Dame and Syracuse) and get a bowl bid, but a more realistic prediction would be that they finish the season 3-8 and last in the Big East.