Questionable certainties advanced by the summer pundits. Part of the Doc's Mid-Major Week.
There's not a lot to say about Temple football: The Owls are known pretty much exclusively for getting a) dropped in favor comedy by former running back Bill Cosby, b) pounded by Penn State every single year, and c) kicked out of the Big East for general suckitude. Temple is just shy of Duke for most losses over the last 20 years, and before last year, even Duke couldn't match the Owls' 30-year bowl drought since the 1979 Garden State Bowl.
Given that record, last year's nine-game winning streak was a borderline miracle – more than twice as many wins in two months as Temple had delivered in any season from 1991-2007, six of them by double digits. It was a breakthrough by any standard, including those of notoriously apathetic Owl fans: The home finale against Kent State drew just over 21,000 to notoriously cavernous Lincoln Financial Field, a new record for a MAC opponent.
Thus, the 2010 edition becomes the first Temple outfit in decades with legitimate expectations going into the season. The Owls will be near-unanimous favorites to claim the East Division title they failed to close on last year. And with Central Michigan's apparent descent from the MAC throne, the Owls are the most obvious pick to take the entire conference. They bring back the best offensive player in the league, sophomore running back Bernard Pierce, and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Adrian Robinson. The entire passing game is en tow behind four multi-year starters on the offensive line, two of them reigning All-MAC picks. Including Robinson, there are three more All-MAC nods back among a front seven that led the conference against the run.
And there's coach Al Golden, baby-faced architect of the Owls' progression from zero wins the season prior to his arrival to one in his underwhelming debut in 2006 to four in 2007, five in 2008 and finally nine last year, solidifying his simmering status as the MAC's resident "young coach on the rise." (A title previously held by Gary Pinkel, Urban Meyer, Brian Kelly and, most recently, Turner Gill.) After last year, it's obvious a big job is in Golden's future. The big job, as anyone in Pennsylvania can tell you, is his alma mater, Penn State, where Golden's ascendency just happens to be coinciding with Joe Paterno's inevitable exit over the next two or three years.
There's no greater ascendency for Temple than a conference championship – a MAC title would be the school's first in any league, and would almost certainly represent the greatest season in Owl history. If Golden is the guy who gets the Owls there from literal rock bottom (0-11 as an independent in 2005), it will be worth asking on behalf of Nittany Lion fans: Can you designate a "coach-in-waiting" from a different school?
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.