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2020 college football preseason preview: Temple Owls

Year 1 of the Rod Carey Era went pretty well, but the Sophomore Slump is real in college football. Will the Owls be afflicted?

Anthony Russo of the Temple Owls throws a pass against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 27, 2019 in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Let us stipulate that winning football games at Temple University is a Herculean task. Philadelphia is a market with four seasons: Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, and most importantly Eagles. That playing in Lincoln Financial Field, six miles down Broad Street from campus but a million miles away psychologically, is difficult because the game day atmosphere is that of a mausoleum.

So when the last two coaches at Temple, Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins, both got Power Five jobs after winning in North Philly, they were very much deserved. It’s really hard to recruit at Temple: your facilities are pretty bad, and any plans for an on-campus stadium are now scuttled in the post-coronavirus economy. Their somewhat-sustained success the last five years is a testament to fantastic coaching as well as a bit of luck.

So many Group of Five coaches take a step back in Year Two when taking over a winning program. See everyone from Western Kentucky to South Florida as of late. Can Rod Carey break the trend?

Temple Owls Stats Breakdown

Full VIC breakdown

VIC Sheet explanation

Preseason Win Total From DraftKings

Over/under: 5 wins

Over -110

Under -110

Key Stats

  • Senior quarterback Anthony Russo hasn’t shown any consistency in two years. He threw for only 6.8 yards per attempt last season while compiling 2,861 yards, and had 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. That was actually an improvement on his sophomore campaign, which saw 14 TD’s and 14 INT’s.
  • The Temple defense last year was excellent, finishing 29th in the America in SP+. But only 38% of that unit is returning, which is 123rd amongst returning defenses in America. There was zero coaching turnover however, and except for one internal promotion, all coaches are returning.
  • The Owls sit 80th in Team Talent rating, and had the 97th best recruiting class in the nation last year. That means there’s only 33 schools behind them, and the Sun Belt, MAC, and Conference USA all exist. Eek.
  • SP+ Preseason Rank: Overall 72, Offense 90, Defense 54.


Team (2020 Preseason SP+ ranking)

* AAC Conference Game

@ Miami (23)

vs. Idaho (FCS)

vs. Rutgers (102)

@ Navy* (55)

@ UMass (129)

vs. USF* (83)

@ Memphis* (22)

@ Tulane* (73)

vs. SMU* (56)

@ UCF* (18)

vs. ECU* (96)

Vs. Cincinnati (34)

Analysis, Prediction

Let’s be honest: Temple probably stinks this season. But there’s for sure two free wins on the schedule in Idaho and UMass. You can decry Temple’s lack of talent, but they do play hard and are just better than those teams. And they’ll likely be favored at home against Greg Schiano in Year 1 at Rutgers.

But find two other wins here? They’ll be a dog at ECU, who might be sneaky good. Tulane? Not returning a ton, but still they have access to better second-tier athletes in Louisiana than TU does in the Northeast. And as fired up as they might be to want to take Manny Diaz’s head off in Miami after he spurned them 18 days after signing his contract to coach them, they’re not beating D’Eriq King and the ‘Canes.

To be fair, they return plenty of skill players that have shown talent. Jadan Blue, Branden Mack, and Re’Mahn Davis are legit AAC starters, but they aren’t game breakers either. And their awful quarterback play doesn’t allow them to consistently show their skills. Add in only 24 offensive line starts returning this season, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Five wins seems at least a game too high. We’re going under here unless the Cherry and White can find a quarterback in the portal to replace the sub-mediocre Russo. This defense is falling back this season, and he can’t score enough to cover for them.

But the bigger issue for a team that was once kicked out of the Big East for not staying competitive: what good transfer quarterback wants to play in front of no fans with no support?

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