Mark your calendars. Geoff Collins and the rest of the Temple Owls have an official schedule as they enter a new era of Temple football.
The American Athletic Conference announced its football schedule for the 2017 season, and the reigning AAC champions will be nationally televised in four games this year, beginning with the regular season opener against Norte Dame. Here is the Owls' complete schedule:
The 2017 @Temple_FB Schedule— American Football (@American_FB) February 9, 2017
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The Fighting Irish are the marquee matchup of the season for the Cherry and White, and the Owls have revenge on their mind after a narrow loss to Notre Dame back in 2015. The Irish are coming off their worst season under Brian Kelly, but a win South Bend will be a tough task with the combination of a new head coach and quarterback.
Temple will host two non-conference opponents in the following weeks in games that should lead to victories. The home opener is once again a matchup against Villanova in the battle for the Mayor's Cup. Next up is a showdown against UMass which will be a good tuneup before the AAC schedule begins.
The schedule makers did Collins no favors in his first season in the conference. The Owls begin league play on the road against another first-year coach in Charlie Strong and South Florida. The Bulls are coming off a 11-2 season and have a legitimate chance to not only be the AAC East division winner, but conference champion with Quinton Flowers at quarterback.
Next up is a home game against the team that defeated TU in the 2015 AAC Championship game, the Houston Cougars. Houston is entering a season much like Temple as they are also under a new head coach and Greg Ward's career has come to an end. Major Applewhite still has talent to work with, and we could realistically be looking at an 0-2 start in conference play.
October will be more generous for the Owls with matchups against East Carolina and UConn. Both teams finished with a 3-9 record and only one win in the conference in 2016. You never like to say that any opponent is an easy win, but these are games that they are expected to win.
The next two contests are against the military academies who run the triple option. First up is a meeting in West Point against Army, who defeated the Owls, 28-13, in the 2016 regular season opener. What makes this stretch unique is that Temple will face Army's triple option, and then have a bye week before their matchup against Navy. Temple should be more than prepared to take down the Midshipmen in a rematch of the 2016 AAC Championship.
The final three games of the season might look like wins on paper, but trips to Cincinnati and Tulsa will be much tougher than advertised. Sandwiched in between those road contests is the final home game of the season against a Central Florida that fielded the AAC's top recruiting class this year, according to 247 Sports.
It's hard to make a prediction on how the Owls will fare this season with so many unknowns. A lot could change during spring practices and training camp. A decision on a quarterback needs to be made and nobody knows how this team will operate under a new regime.
USF has to be the early favorite to win the East division with Flowers under center, and a loss in the first conference game could be the difference in Temple making its third straight trip to the AAC Championship game. We will see how it all plays out, beginning on Sept. 2 against Notre Dame.