Temple is in trouble. Smarter people than I probably saw this coming. Admittedly, I am sometimes blinded by my desire for the Philadelphia school and perpetual FBS speed bump to eventually become the car, or at least a sharp piece of debris that shreds a tire.
Things started well enough. They went 4-1 to open the year, leading with a surprise win over Vanderbilt, who, while terrible, was still expected to roll them. The only loss came in a respectable 7 point decision versus Navy.
The Owls' wins weren't all fluff like Delaware State. UConn and Tulsa are not powerhouses, but they are currently the class of team that used to beat old Temple teams for one of their few wins on the season. OK, so maybe they were all fluff, but it was easy to get excited.
When the Owls got to Houston, the wheels fell off. P.J. Walker stopped throwing accurately, the defense could only catch on to what offenses were doing after they'd strung together multiple drives doing it. They simply didn't look prepared to contend in the American. It was hard to see anything but a loss coming on the road against an even more talented UCF team. I at least thought it would be close, presuming the Owls would be sore over the beating they took across the gulf. It was not.
Now the Owls are staring down a stretch that presents them ECU at home this Saturday at noon, followed by trips to Memphis and Penn State before coming home for a date with Cincinnati. It's not hard to see the Owls losing all four games considering the way they have played over the last two.
If Temple manages to split those games, they are a win at Tulane away from a 7-5 season and a potential bowl bid-- a huge step forward for a program that took a couple back after Al Golden left. But that split has seemed less and less likely with each minute this team has played over the last two games.
Even if they do split the next four and beat Tulane, what's to say they won't be left holding the bag like they were in 2010 when 8-4 wasn't good enough for a bid? The American has six direct tie-ins and Temple is currently tied for sixth in the conference standings with their toughest stretch of the season looming overhead. If there are more than six bowl eligible teams from the American come selection season, it's easy to imagine Temple--being a tough sell for bowls, and a low-traveling fan base--being stuck at home.
There is some hope, however, for Owls fans looking to see their team playing in bowl season. They are still a team full of players who nearly beat the Orange Bowl champions last season, with nearly another year of experience under their belts. They have talent on both sides of the ball, but they still lack the depth that more established mid-majors have cultivated.
As bad as the recent outcomes have been, most of the Temple units haven't looked all that bad on the whole. Most of the bad offensive results can be traced back to volatile quarterback play. If the rest of the team can play within reasonable range of their abilities, P.J. Walker is the key to whether or not this team has a shot at the post-season.
As cliche and "old sportswriting" as it is to pin too much responsibility on the quarterback, this is one scenario where it is necessary. Walker has been a detriment to the success of the team over the last three games after being their greatest offensive asset in the first three.
His play, the projection of which at this point is a coin flip, will determine whether or not Temple has a chance to go bowling this year. Come Saturday's match with ECU, we will get our first idea of what side of the coin is showing.