Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Who's Paul Palmer?"

The question was posed to a young Bernard Pierce in the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field a couple of weeks ago.

"Dude, do you realize you have a chance to break Paul Palmer's records?"
"Who's Paul Palmer?" Pierce said.
What some longtime Temple fans might see as blasphemy was really an innocent remark that illustrated, more than anything else, how young Bernard Pierce is.
The true freshman wasn't even born yet when the kid known as Boo-Boo was in a heated battle with Vinny Testaverde for the 1986 Heisman Trophy.

On Halloween, Bernard Pierce came dressed up as Paul Palmer.
Chances are, Pierce will get to know Boo-Boo well in the coming months and years as each record Palmer set falls.
Temple beats Villanova by AT LEAST 20 points with this sure-handed young superstar getting 20 or more carries, rather than the six he had in the opener.
You'd have to be Stevie Wonder not to see that.
Today, Pierce rushed for 267 yards and two spectacular touchdowns as the Owls overcame an anemic passing attack to beat Navy, 27-24, otherwise known as the best team on their schedule not named Penn State. He did a good impersonation of Paul Palmer on Halloween, becoming the first Owl runner since Boo-Boo to rush for over 200 yards in consecutive games.

Numbers don't lie
Bernard Pierce:
29 carries
267 yards
2 touchdowns
Vaughn Charlton:
5 for 17
37 yards
0 touchdowns
2 interceptions
The fact that the Owls could not throw the ball and hit open receivers (check the film, they were running open through the Navy secondary all day) only makes what Pierce did all that more impressive.
As the game went on, Navy's defense loaded up in the box to stop Pierce.
Didn't matter.
He was too quick, too strong, too fast.
The Owls' offensive line, which averages 310 pounds across the front, also deserves a lot of credit. They knocked Navy off the ball like bowling pins. There is a photo accompanying this story that shows Pierce running through a hole and the Temple line knocking Navy off the ball in the background.
There is still much work to be done for this Owls' team to reach its potential.
The passing game, which really has alternated between bad and worse (today was worse), needs to be fixed.
I've been saying that for eight weeks, but no one wants to fix it.
It's tempting to say leave well enough alone, but I won't join that crowd.
Why not make something real good better, if you can? Why not play off Pierce's runs by throwing touchdown passes to James Nixon, Michael Campbell, Steve Manieri and Evan Rodriguez?
Those guys are doing their jobs by getting open, just like Pierce does his job by punishing linebackers and running past safeties.
You've got to be able to get someone in there who can throw the ball effectively.
Some hard decisions about personnel are going to have to be made at that position.
To win the championship, the Owls need to make Pierce more of a weapon by fixing the firing mechanism.
Who's Paul Palmer, yes, but another question could be:
Where's Matty Baker?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mids give whole new meaning to term whistle-blower

Mike Gerardi (14), the QB phenom of spring ball, cheers on Peanut Joseph during TD run.
By Mike Gibson
Nothing could be more fitting this year than Temple playing at Navy on Halloween.
Navy played a dirty trick on Temple and it could turn out to be an unexpected treat for the Owls come Saturday.
This year would have been the fourth year of a home-and-home contract with Temple.
Navy and Temple, both in good faith, signed a contract to honor two home and two away games.
Temple honored the final part of its road commitment with a trip to Navy last season.
Then the Owls threw a scare into Navy last season, leading, 27-7, in the fourth quarter before losing, 33-27, in overtime.
Navy's brass thought for a minute about the possibility of playing Temple in hostile Philadelphia in 2009, then placed a phone call to Temple.
"Err, you know that game we promised you? We're not coming."
Navy tore up the contract and would have paid Temple a $200,000 fee for breaking it, but that left the Owls in a bind. They had no team to replace Navy.
So Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw did the only thing he could do with an 18-inch battleship gun pointed squarely at his head:
Offer to play the game in Annapolis.
"Yeah, that's the ticket," Navy said.
Navy has a distinct advantage at home. The Middies have a fan who blows whistles when Navy ballcarriers are seemingly stopped, yet the fan never gets kicked out of the stadium and game officials feign deafness around him. He's the guy who blew a whistle three times while Temple defenders stopped a ballcarrier on fourth and goal, only to see the guy get off the ground and run into the end zone with the officials signaling touchdown and Temple coaches yelling, "what the fu*k?" The whistle caused Al Golden to run onto the field and scream to officials after the bogus score. Temple players stopped tackling the Navy guy for fear of being called for a penalty, only to see the Navy guy score after the whistle. He's the guy talked about in a response to this well-written post, page down to an answer by Navy72, on a Navy fan website. (He's a skinny guy with brown hair and a moustache, and last year parked his backside across the aisle from a group of Temple fans in the end zone. If you see him blow one whistle, please point him out to security this Saturday.)
Yet there is irony in this situation this year.
Getting the Owls out of here at this time can only help them do what they need to do, focus on the task at hand
The irony is that Navy might have done Temple an inadvertent favor.
I mean, did Navy know the World Series would be played in Philadelphia that day?
The Phillies are playing that day in Philadelphia and the city is crazed right now.
Everything else in sports is an afterthought, even the Eagles.
All of the parking lots around both stadiums will be all Phillies red all day long.
Getting the Owls out of here at this time can only help them do what they need to do, focus on the task at hand. This is an important game between two teams who have won five straight games. The winner, especially if it's Temple, will get sorely needed recognition on a national scale.
It's was a dirty trick Navy played, no doubt.
If the Owls get a win, though, it will be a delicious treat.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Best Thing on TV: Bernie's MAC Show

"Give the ball to The Franchise, that's what I've been telling coach all along," Steve Manieri seems to be saying to Bernard Pierce.

Photo by Ryan Porter, Porterhouse Productions

By Mike Gibson
Mark Beier and the Toledo radio broadcast team threw some many bouquets in Temple's direction Saturday night, you didn't know which ones to catch and which ones to send to the niece's wedding.
Beier talked about the size and the fierceness of Temple's offensive line and the overall speed of the Temple defense.
Something Beier said in the fourth quarter of Temple's 40-24 win at Toledo really caught my ear, though.
"I haven't seen a running back of this caliber in the Mid-American Conference in a long, long time," said Beier, whose radio call also streams worldwide on a MAC access channel with video.
Color man Tom Duncan agreed.
Beier was, of course, talking about Temple freshman Bernard Pierce, whose amazing recovery from being carried off in a stretcher last week in the Army game is nothing more than Lourdes-like.

BP's numbers:
40 carries=game
212 yards=game
3 touchdowns=game
766 yards=season
9 TDs=season

Pierce rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns and now has 766 yards on 135 carries, despite getting only six carries against Villanova. Pierce now has a team-high nine touchdowns and already has bettered Paul Palmer's records for touchdowns (6) and yards (628) by a freshman.
Did we mention Palmer finished as a runnerup to Vinny Testaverde for the 1986 Heisman?
Thought I'd mention that.
Temple has now won five straight games for the first time since 1979. The Owls (5-2, 4-0) are also in the MAC East driver's seat, affirming predictions by both the New York Times and CBS Sportsline prior to the season.
Meanwhile, the Toledo game was a tale of two stars with bum shoulders.
One could play. One didn't.
"It's doubtful," Temple coach Al Golden said when asked if Pierce would play Wednesday.
Five minutes later, in the same presser, Golden said: "I don't have any doubt, Aaron Opelt will be playing quarterback on Saturday night for Toledo."
Well, guess what happened?
Pierce's broken shoulder was fixed and Golden's doubt-meter was broken.
Or maybe Al was just playing possum.
Whatever, I don't think Toledo wins that game with Opelt AND Pierce playing.
Then again, I don't think Temple wins that game without Pierce.
That's how good Pierce was.
When you have a running back like Pierce, you can manage the game off him and that's what Temple quarterback Vaughn Charlton did so well on Saturday night.
Vaughn threw a nice touchdown pass that Michael Campbell caught, another ball that Michael Campbell probably should have caught for six (it would have been a really good catch, though) and another flair that went for another touchdown to Jason Harper, who only makes positive things happen every time his number is called.
Pierce went out for a blow late in the fourth quarter and they handed the ball to Lamar McPherson, who promptly went down on the same kind of play Pierce was falling forward for eight yards a pop.
"You can see the difference between Pierce and everybody else," Beier said.
Whatever they rubbed on his shoulders this week, must've worked.
I wonder if they got the bottle overnighted from France.
Whatever, it was the Elixer the Owls needed and one they will have to keep in the medicine shelf the rest of the way.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Toledo: Heart tells me win; gut tells me, err, win

The best pass defense is putting Opelt on his ass all night long.
By Mike Gibson
I got one of those campus-wides alerts from Temple University security the other day.
It warned students "not to get too rowdy" in their celebrations after big wins.
For a second, maybe even a minute, I thought they were talking about the Temple University football team's four-game winning streak and some anticipated poll-climbing by exhuberant students after win No. 5.
Then I thought about the Phillies.
Temple vs. Toledo
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: The Glass Bowl
Records: Temple 4-2, Toledo 4-3
Line: Toledo favored by 2 1/2
TV: MAC All-Access
Radio: WPHT-AM, 1210
Oh, never mind, I thought.
We've got a long way to go. I'd love to see Temple students identify with their fellow Temple students (playing for them, by the way) than with a group of 25 professionals playing for an entire region.
Maybe that's just me.
But it will take more than a four-game winning streak, or even a fiver, for that to happen.
The worse part is that I don't see a five-game winning streak in this team.
I've got this nasty feeling in my gut and have had it for a few days.
The streak ends at No. 4, I fear.
It's part gut (I've been taking Pepto-Bismol for it, but to no avail) and part based on these realities as I see them:

  • Despite having great receivers all over the place, we've not been able to develop a passing game anyone fears or has reason to fear for six games;
  • We went 0 for 9 on third downs in the final three quarters against an EMU team that got torched for 56 the next week. Not good. Not good at all.
  • We have tight ends lining up in the backfield, when they should be where Pop Warner designed them to be _ on the line of scrimmage;
  • We have no fullback, either to serve as a lead blocker for the tailback or to protect our quarterback on blindside blitzes. We need a fullback and that's painfully obvious.
  • We face a quarterback, Aaron Opelt, whose specialty is picking secondaries apart if he has time.
  • We have not shown the gonads to pressure the quarterback on every down. We play a more bend-but-don't-break defense that plays into the hands of quarterbacks who have time to throw. The best pass defense is putting the QB on his backside. You can't see open receivers if you are running for your life.
  • The best running back we've had since Paul Palmer is hurt. He may be cleared to play, but he's still hurt.

This could be a 35-20 Toledo win, unless Temple fixes a non-existent passing game or blitzes from the opening toss.
That's what my gut tells me.
Of course, my hope is that Vaughn Charlton throws for 350, four touchdowns, no picks and that Bernard Pierce plays and picks up his usual buck twenty-five.
My gut has been wrong before, as recently as a couple of days ago.
Jimmy Rollins came to the plate.
"Game's over," I told a crowded newsroom, mostly due to my gut but thinking a little reverse Black Cat. "I've never seen this guy come up with a real big clutch hit in the playoffs."
Next pitch, gapper.
Let's hope the Owls prove my gut wrong again.
Now excuse me while I take two more Pepto-Bismols.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

We've waited 24 years for a 4-game win streak

Nice job on that sack, Big Mo (Muhammad Wilkerson).

By Mike Gibson
The year was 1985.
The top-rated television program was "The Cosby Show."
A gallon of gas was 69 cents.
The No. 1 song in the country on Oct. 17 was by a group from Norway, Ah-a, "Take on Me."
That day, the Temple University football team was coming off its fourth win in a row, a 45-16 thumping of William and Mary. That was after wins on the road against East Carolina (21-7) and Cincinnati (28-16) and a 14-13 win at home against Rutgers.
Temple has not won four straight.
Until now.
I was struck by something Al Golden said before all this winning stuff started happening four weeks ago.
"Once we start winning, it's going to continue for a long time," Golden said. "That's the way this thing is built."
It was a telling quote and an unforgettable one.
Four straight wins have now followed and this latest one probably is the most impressive from where I stand.
I'm getting used to this winning, but it doesn't mean I'm taking it for granted.
I saw a couple of people leaving on Saturday and I mentioned to my friend, "I'm not leaving early. I want to go over and sing the fight song with the team. I want to savor every last drop of this."

"Once we start winning, it's going to continue for a long time. That's the way this thing is built."
He understood where I was coming from.
I tasted the sewer water of losing for too long. Now I want to taste the sweet nectar of winning.
If Golden is right, and I have no reason to doubt him, I'm going to be hanging around for a lot of fight songs and I can't think of anything better.
Saturday Temple beat an Army team that beat an SEC team, Vanderbilt, last week.
Army is very well-coached by Rich Ellerson (although you couldn't tell it at times on Saturday) and the Cadets are going to beat a lot of teams.
In fact, I would not be surprised if the Cadets don't beat Rutgers at beautiful Michie Stadium on Friday night because they play a style of defense that all teams should play.
Blitz, blitz and more blitz.
They put eight in the box and they come after the quarterback, hoping the reward (turnovers) outweighs any risk.
I can't see Rutgers' quarterback Tom Savage, a true freshman, thriving against that defense at all.
I like the philosophy and the scheme.
I also like the fact that these wonderful kids who play football for Temple University perserved against it.
Was it a masterpiece?
Post of The Week
Occassionally, we will see a post that blows us over with its logic and perception and we'll use it here. I found this one under a "Matt Rhule" thread on and I'm using it in its entirety.
First off, absolutely thrilled we won again. I have never seen 4 straight wins as a Temple fan, at least any that I can remember.
That said, Im going to temper my complaints and hope the future doesn't place so much pressure on our defense. I do not understand our offensive philosophy, if we even have one. I havent identified it other than we are absolutely terrific on short yardage. How many times have we seen Temple stalled on 4th and one/goal in our lifetimes. Not this year.

But what is up with the passing attack? There are simply too many athletes on this team to have such an anemic aerial attack. Particularly our 2nd half offense. Army thought so much of it they went for it on 4th and inches from their 25w 9 mins left? Wow, insanity imo.

I went back and looked at the drive chart. Temple didnt complete a single pass on 1st down yesterday. Why cant we incorporate more simple passes like slip screens and outs? Once again, we threw two deep balls, one was caught for a touchdown and one was missed for a wide open touchdown. Maybe a couple sacks were intended to be deep balls?

I also noticed there were at least two occassions when James Nixon was in single coverage and Army called a timeout. Teams fear that guy but guess how many balls he caught yesterday? Im also happy to see our RS'd highly touted WR recruit Vaughn Carraway makes such an excellent decoy. Maybe Rhule has a thing about two guys with the same name handling the ball. I'd sure hate to see this wonderful season derailed...

Go Owls
The Owls have to get better on offense. They have to get better protection for Vaughn Charlton. They have to have somebody (whether it be Joey Jones, Lamar McPherson, Kee-ayre Griffin or even Ahkeem Smith) step up and do a reasonable impersonation of Bernard Pierce for a game or two.
They have to get a clutch player like Jason Harper more involved and team leaders like him and Steve Manieri are going to have to keep making great plays like they did on Saturday. (Man, I was sooooooo happy to see Jason Harper reach the end zone for the first of what I hope is many times this season.)
Still, they can't be leaving plays on the field like they have been during this four-game winning streak.
They get so few opportunities to make plays, they've got to cash in when they have them. They can't be dropping long bombs from Chester Stewart or Vaughn Charlton anymore.
The Owls are coming up against a stretch of teams with quarterbacks, like Aaron Opelt of Toledo, who can make plays and put up a whole lot of points.
They are going to get into a track meet (think EMU last year) with one of these teams and the offense must be ready to win a game or two, like the defense has won these last four.
Nobody knows that more than Al Golden and company so while you and I can just hope the offense comes around, that'll be the focus this week. Tinkering with these great weapons, putting the gunpowder in and fiddling with the trigger.
It's a process, Golden likes to say, and it's all about getting better every day and having fun, too.
Like Wayne Hardin used to say, the only way to have fun in football is to win.
I'm having fun right now. It looked like the kids on the field were having fun, too.
I don't know where this road leads, but let's concentrate on both enjoying the journey and getting better every step of the way.
The quality of the journey is directly correlated to the getting better.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The word for Saturday: DEE-FENSE!

It's Homecoming, so weather be damned, show up and cheer.

Good for football, bad for tailgating.

By Mike Gibson
You can use a couple of words to describe Saturday.
Homecoming is one of them.
Luck is another one, as in bad luck because the Owls drew the short straw from the weatherman for their Homecoming Day game.
Rain and cold come to mind.
So does mud, if it rains enough.
So does the under, as in over/under, which is 39.
So while all of those words are descriptive ones, defense is the operative word on Saturday.
My 5 plays against an 8-man front guaranteed to move the ball:
1. Bernard Pierce left, right and up the middle _ Not on every down, mind you. If it's not working on first down, pass on second. Don't put yourself and 3d and longs.
2. The Chester Stewart Throwback Pass _ When Chester Stewart comes into the game, use his specialized talent to throw the ball deep to James Nixon, suckering that 8-man front up to him and leaving Nixon 40 yards open behind the defense.
3. Five, not one, cracks at Nixon _
All on play-action, all after significant gains by Bernard Pierce. That's when you sell play-action, not on 3d and longs. Throwing the deep ball only once a game to Nixon is borderline criminal. He's good for at least two touchdowns a game if you throw him 3 to 5 deep balls.
4. The jump pass to the tight end _ It works near the goal line, ala Chester Stewart to Steve Manieri last season at Miami. Fake to Pierce, jump pass to an open Manieri or an open Evan Rodriguez.
5. Screen passes to third-down back Kee-Ayre Griffin _ Give KAG some room to roam against the Army secondary and loosen up that eight-man front from time to time.

Defense, as in DEE-FENSE.
Both Army and Temple have good defenses and the one that dominates on Saturday will win the game.
Whatever advantage the Owls have with speed on the edges (James Nixon and Jason Harper in the passing game and Bernard Pierce in the running game) figures to be negated by the cold, windy and muddy conditions.
The latest forecast is for a high of 47 degrees with wind and light rain.
If the rain is light enough, then maybe the field conditions will be acceptable.
Maybe Bernard Pierce will finally be able to break that long run and show that world class speed of his in the 100-meter dash.
Whatever, I don't see the two teams combining for 39 points and I don't see anything outside of a 13-6, 14-7, 17-7 game.
I hope I'm wrong and the Owls break out and Vaughn Charlton finally hits more than his seemingly self-imposed quota of connecting on only one long bomb a game.
I hope the Owls win 44-11, but I don't see it.
This is one of those strap-it-in-games, with a high emphasis on ball security and good execution on things like punt protection that come as second nature to 99 percent of the Division I teams out there.
One external thing that would help the Owls is a whole bunch of their fans participating and yelling DEE-FENSE, DEE-FENSE, for a full three hours in real time.
That's the catchword for Saturday.
If you are a Temple fan and you sit on your hands and stay silent, you give away the homefield advantage and that might be the difference in the game. At the end of the year, if the Owls are at six wins and lose this game, this will be the difference between a bowl or no bowl so let's do all we can to win this one.
That means players, coaches AND fans.
Don't be afraid to get up and yell DEE-FENSE all day.
Unless Bernard Pierce and or Vaughn Charlton have the ball, of course.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Temple's offense runs on BP (Bernard Pierce)

Dickerson's high school film (above) and Pierce's high school film (below).

Pierce is a guy who was Pennsylvania state high school indoor champion in the 60-meter dash and then pulled the impressive double of of winning the state 100-meter dash ... that translates to one juke and plenty of 40-, 50- and 70-yard touchdown runs coming soon to a stadium near you
By Mike Gibson
As if Temple's football team didn't present the Mid-American Conference with enough problems early in the season, the league has looked up and found another unforseen one coming from Philadelphia.
Bernard Pierce, a 6-foot, 212-pound true freshman, has done something no other running back in the history of Temple football has done _ rush for over 100 yards in each of his first three full starts.
Before you dismiss that as a byproduct of history, that includes a Heisman Trophy runner-up in Paul Palmer, who was also an NFL first-round draft choice.
It includes a guy like Todd McNair, a pretty good running back in the NFL who is now an assistant coach at Southern Cal.
It includes a guy named Sherman Myers, from Coatesville, who scored four touchdowns on on the ground in a 1979 Temple 49-17 rout of Syracuse.
It also includes recent NFLers like Stacey Mack and Jason McKie.
There are plenty of good running backs who have played at the school.
None did what Bernard Pierce has done.
But then again none may be as good when all is said and done.
Pierce is a guy who was Pennsylvania state high school indoor champion in the 60-meter dash and then pulled the impressive double of of winning the state 100-meter dash in the spring season.That's scary enough against track guys.
Against football guys, it translates to one juke and plenty of 40-, 50- and 70-yard touchdown runs coming soon to a stadium near you.
"We thought he could be special," is the way Temple coach Al Golden describes it.
The Temple student rooting section, which sometimes numbers in the 10s of thousands, has taken to Pierce already.
"SAINT BERN-ARD," the students chant in unison.
So the inevitable question arises.
"Who does he remind you of?"
Not really any of the Temple backs, I thought.
Well, he really doesn't remind me all that much of Paul Palmer. Paul could break tackles, sure, but not as well as Bernard. What Bernard doesn't do as well as Paul is to make tacklers miss, with a little juke here and a jibe thbere, but it's still early.
Hmm. Who?
People who watched Temple practice in the summer came up with one name.
Eric Dickerson.
It's what I thought when I saw Pierce for the first time in the Villanova game.
Dickerson was the kind of guy who would approach the hole, take about a half-second to mull his options against the defense, then attack the weakest part of it.
So, I thought, that pretty much was Pierce, a modern-day Eric Dickerson.
I thought me and the other Temple fans were the only ones who thought that until I heard the Buffalo announcers.
"He kind of reminds you of Eric Dickerson," one of them said during the Owls' 37-13 win three weeks ago.
Then the Eastern Michigan announcer said the same thing.
"He runs like Eric Dickerson," he said.
That's all I needed to know.
We're all in agreement then.
There is a new Eric Dickerson and he runs the football for Temple University.
That has a nice ring (and a lot of truth) to it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cosby beats Letterman, but punt protection team is the only joke

Owl fans sport wide smiles watching Bernard Pierce run.
Photos by Ryan Porter

"If that’s not the best defense, especially physically, we’ve played since I’ve been at Ball State, it’s right up there." _ Ball State head coach Stan Parrish
By Mike Gibson
Gotta give Stan Parrish some love.
He's not getting much in Muncie, Ind., these days, there's even a website.
Gotta give him some love for this quote today, though.
"If that's not the best defense, especially physically, we've played since I've been at Ball State, it's right up there," Parrish, the Ball State head coach said of Temple.
Temple beat Ball State on Saturday. A cynic would headline it: Cosby beats Letterman in Sexual Harassment Bowl on Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
I prefer to see it, though, as a flawed win for the Owls, a siren call for a tweek here and a tweek there to get this engine raady for the MAC race stretch run.
Even the Owls themselves hinted as much in their post-game remarks.
Consider these words by Owl linebacker Peanut Joseph.
"We have some goals, but we're nowhere close to them," the Owls' linebacker said after a 24-19 win over Ball State.
Nowhere but one small step. There are seven, maybe eight, more steps just like these.
Joseph is right.
Let's face it. The defense won this game. They deserve 11 game balls.
Then there's the flip side.
If the Owls keep playing like this on offense and special teams, they will be nowhere near close to getting those goals.
The good thing is that the problems are fixable.
Al Golden's To Do List:
1. Fix punt protection _ Tighten this up. It looks like the Owls don't even practice this stuff. Change the snapper, if necessary.
2. Fix the passing game _
Way too many plays are left on the field. Going to James Nixon only once a game is borderline criminal. Work Mike Gerardi or Chris Coyer in there one series per quarter, just to give them some experience in case Vaughn goes down and to change things up on offense. Don't worry about Coyer's redshirt. It's all hands on deck for this MAC championship. Whoever moves the team best, stays on the field.
3. Leave Mark D'Onofrio alone _ Coach D'Onofrio is certainly doing his job, which is to keep points off the board. The same cannot be said for special teams coach Al Golden or offensive coordinator Matt Rhule. Al should just say, "Hey, Mark, keep doing what you're doing, big guy. Nice blitz on that interception, by the way."
Temple hasn't shown in the past that it has trouble snapping or protecting.
Special teams coach Al Golden is going to have to put in a whole new scheme of punt protection, and maybe even a new snapper, in the next few days before the Army game.
Ball State evidently saw something in Temple's protection that dictated the Cardinals go after every punt.
That entire scheme must change because the Army coaches will see it, too.
One way to change it is not to have to punt at all.
Temple has to develop a viable passing game to complement Bernard "The Franchise" Pierce.
Pierce became the first freshman in Owl history to rush for over 100 yards in three straight games, getting a buck 25 and two touchdowns.
If the Owls can develop a passing game opponents respect, and it might include changing the passer or the receivers or both, look for Pierce to turn a few of those twisting and turning 8-, 9- and 10-yard runs into 70-yard touchdowns. This is a team with too many weapons to be scoring in the low 20s every game. Temple coaches must view the film and determine what the problem is and correct it. If it requires a change in scheme or a change in personnel, so be it. This is big-time college football and they should not be afraid to hurt anyone's feelings.
Winning ugly is still winning, but Saturday is Homecoming and a good Army team is coming to town before an expected Temple crowd of 25,000 plus.
Winning "beautiful" is the next goal and that means for all three phases to show up, not just the defense.
That would be the next step and it must be forward, not backward.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Time for Owls to blow that scoreboard up

Vaughn Charlton has more weapons than an F-15 fighter pilot.
Troubling stats
Last 3 quarters against EMU: 0 for 9 on third downs, 2 for 6 passing, 3 yards
By Mike Gibson
It's got be good to be Temple quarterback Vaughn Charlton now.

He's got more weapons than an F-15 fighter pilot and the plane hasn't even gotten out of the hanger yet.

That's what they've been working on all week in the command center of Temple football, otherwise known as the Edberg-Olson Practice Complex, shining that Stealth jet and moving it out of the hanger for the final eight games of the season.

At least that's the drift I got when I checked Al Golden's Twitter page earlier this week.
Matt Shepard on EMU radio/TV:

Shepard: "It's going to be a pleasure watching this young man, Bernard Pierce, develop the next four years."
Color guy Rob Rubick: "More like a pain."
Rubick in the final moments of a 21-3 first quarter:
"You know, Eastern did score 17 against Michigan, so they can put points on the board."
Shepard: "Then again, right now, it looks as if Temple can beat Michigan."
"Today was a learning day for the team," Golden tweeted. "We must get better at what we do."
We've got too many guys who have the talent to put the ball in the end zone to be sputtering along like we are.
Our passing efficiency is not close to where it needs to be and Charlton would be the first to say that. The truth here is that Vaughn Charlton has had four games to show his stuff and, while he has shown flashes of greatness, flashes are not enough. Particularly troubling stats were these in the final three quarters: 0 for 9 on third downs, 2 for 3 passing, 3 yards. That comes off a game where he went 6 for 17 for 95 yards. You can't keep throwing the same guy out there after nine straight failed third-down conversions and expect a different result.
Charlton has got a lot of rope so far. There are two lefty all-state quarterbacks, Mike Gerardi (New Jersey) and Chris Coyer (Virginia) waiting in the wings and chomping at the bit to to fly this jet. These guys were high-achievers in high school, guys who have moved the ball and put touchdowns, not field goals, on the scoreboard all of their lives.
Saturday would be a perfect opportunity for Charlton to break out, for both his sake and the Owls.
So far this season, the inescapable thought was that Temple has too much talent on offense to be sputtering like this. Let's face it. Eastern Michigan is not Penn State, so zero for nine in third downs is unacceptable to me.
It should be unacceptable to Al Golden and Matt Rhule, too.
Temple has really too much talent to be shut down by Eastern Michigan after taking a 21-3 lead essentially after one quarter.
Temple has too much talent to go 6 for 17 for only 95 yards in the passing game against Buffalo.
The offensive scheme, to me, is all out of whack.
Long-term, I'd like to see a real fullback in there to not only get the fourth-and-ones but to help in pass protection and blitz pickup and someone for Bernard Pierce and others to follow through the hole

Long-term, I'd like to see a real fullback (think a bulked-up Blaze Copanegro) in there to not only get the fourth-and-ones but to help in pass protection and blitz pickup and someone for Bernard Pierce and others to follow through the hole. Think what Shelley Poole did for Paul Palmer, for instance.
Short-term, I'd like to see them axe the tight end in the backfield and put the tight end where he needs to be _ on the line of scrimmage. Two tight ends with Steve Manieri and Evan Rodriguez out there on running plays and two guys the defense needs to cover.
Here's what can be done now to turn this offense from a 20-point-a-game producer to a 30-plus ppg machine:
BERNARD PIERCE _ Keep feeding the franchise the ball, but not on obvious running downs. Mix it up a little bit. Run him on second-and-longs sometimes, pass on first down other times.
JAMES NIXON _ The guy regularly gets behind defenses. Don't throw him the play-action bomb once a game. Throw him the bomb AT LEAST five times a game. Nothing will loosen up the middle for Bernard Pierce runs more than the threat of throwing the play-action bomb to James Nixon.
EVAN RODRIGUEZ _ Why, in God's name, doesn't this guy get the ball 5-10 times a game 10-15 yards down the field where he can use his athletic ability for some impressive RAC (run after catch) yardage? How many tight ends in Division I ball today were terrific punt returners for his high school team? I know only of Evan Rodriguez. I love to see him with the ball in the open field and not these 5-yard out patterns they throw him.
JASON HARPER _ What a Warrior (with a capital W) this kid has been for our program. ... use him. He was a running back good enough to get over 100 yards against bowl bound UConn two years ago and he would cause defenses major headaches in the short passing game, bubble screens and the like. Try those plays with him. Give him a head of steam. He's still one of the fastest guys on the team. Harper can also go deep as he proved last year against Kent State and Eastern Michigan.
I'm sure Golden meant get better in all phases and so do I.
I'm sure Golden didn't like one guy calling for a fair catch when the other guy had a lane to run last week on a punt return.
I'm sure Golden didn't like one guy stepping in front of James Nixon on a kickoff return, one return after Nixon took one 93 to the house.
I'm sure Golden is not entralled with our pass rush or pass coverage, either.
We must get better in all those phases.
Offense, though, is one area where they know they have the athletes who should be turning scoreboards into adding machines soon.
Heck, they've got enough weapons to blow that scoreboard up if they use them the right way.
It's not too late.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Turnovers: You can either bemoan them or create them

Temple's crowd is going to have to be loud, proud and pink.
Photo by Ryan Porter

There's a reason why football is the greatest game ever devised.
It's simple.
After years of watching the game closely, I've narrowed the keys to winning down to this:
1) Put the other guy's quarterback on his butt;
2) Keep your QB's jersey clean.
There you have it.
The Owls can correct that Saturday by pressuring Whitney's clone, Kelly Page, into turnovers. They can't do anything about Whitney now, but they can commit to putting a defensive game plan together this week designed to put Page on his backside.
The formula by which to do that is simple: If you can't get to him with five rushers, send six. If you can't get to him with six, send seven. If you can't get to him with seven, send eight.
Do both of those things and I guarantee a win every time.
Some might say win the turnover battle but, in my mind, doing Nos. 1 and 2 inevitably takes care of that more important statistic.
Do you hope for turnovers or do you go after them?
That's what brings me to Saturday's Mid-American Conference football game in Philadelphia (1 p.m.) between Ball State (0-5) and Temple (2-2).
Temple can learn a lot about Ball State quarterback Kelly Page by remembering Villanova quarterback Chris Whitney.
Like Whitney, who was a first-team all-state QB in Pennsylvania, Page was a highly-touted high school player.

Page was even more highly thought of than Whitney, a first-team all-state in Texas and ranked the No. 12 high school quarterback in the nation by and No. 25 in the nation by while playing quarterback for the storied Mesquite program.
What Temple did not do against Whitney was put him on his butt. If Chris Whitney is not on his backside every time he goes back to pass next year in the Mayor's Cup game, someone (Al Golden or Mark D'Onofrio) is not doing his job. Temple did not blitz Whitney and lost, 27-24, when the 'Cats QB dinked and dunked his way down the field against a prevent defense for the game-winning field goal.
What Temple did not do against Whitney was put him on his butt. If Chris Whitney is not on his backside every time he goes back to pass next year in the Mayor's Cup game, someone (Al Golden or Mark D'Onofrio) is not doing his job
It was a glaring error that cost the Owls a game they needed to have.
The Owls can correct that Saturday by pressuring Whitney's clone, Kelly Page, into turnovers. They can't do anything about Whitney now, but they can commit to putting a defensive game plan together this week designed to put Page on his backside.
The formula by which to do that is simple: If you can't get to him with five rushers, send six. If you can't get to him with six, send seven. If you can't get to him with seven, send eight.
Leave free safety Dominique Harris back there with Kevin Kroboth and Anthony Ferla to prevent against the deep stuff.
Chances are, though, if you send eight, Page will be on his backside.
Or better yet, blindly puts up a pass that gets intercepted.
You can either bemoan turnovers or create them.
Against Villanova's capable quarterback, the Owls bemoaned them.
Against Ball State's capable quarterback, the Owls should do whatever it takes to create them.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Temple 24, Eastern Michigan 12: I'll take it

A crowd about this size watched at EMU Saturday.
I never want to hear anything about Temple's attendance again. Compared to Eastern Michigan and Kent State and some of these MAC teams, Temple is like the Red Sox in attracting fans.
By Mike Gibson
I entered this season not knowing if I'm more of a perfectionist or a bottom-line guy.
After Villanova, I decided I was a bottom-line guy.
I didn't care how we got it done, just get it done.
Get 'er done.
The perfectionist in me didn't like today's 24-12 win over Eastern Michigan.
When we had a first down on the other guy's 3 with a 24-6 lead, and you have a back who gained 180 yards and you abandon the run for a silly pass, that's just bad decision-making.
You run your horse behind your big offensive line a couple of times.
Chances are the guy's going to score.
Clint Eastwood the m-fers.
Step on the freaking guy's throat and say, "I've got four chances to blow your brains out with Bernard Pierce. Do you feel lucky? Well, do you?"
I'm about thisclose to pulling the red shirt off of Chris Coyer.
We are getting no plays out of the quarterback position or at least not enough to win the amount of games we need to win.
I see true freshmen making plays all over the place at quarterback every Saturday. If we've got a playmaker on the bench, use him. We need more out of Vaughn. I'm going to chalk Saturday up to that 20 mph wind. At least I hope that's what the problem was, but we were 6 for 17 out of that position a week ago, too, with no wind.
Now get out of here, perfectionist.
WE WON!!!!!!
Since I blamed Al Golden for the Villanova loss (and I still do), I will be fair here.
Good job, Al.
I'll take it.
The hardest thing to do is win in big-time college football.
I don't care if you are playing in The Big House in front of 106,000 people against Michigan or in front of 3,364 in The Little House in Ypsilanti.
That's right. Three-thousand, three hundred and sixty four.
That's the announced crowd.
Step on the freaking guy's throat and say, "I've got four chances to blow your brains out with Bernard Pierce. Do you feel lucky? Well, do you?"

Eastern Michigan couldn't fake it because the NCAA would be able to review the film and count them in about 10 minutes.
I never want to hear anything about Temple's attendance again.
Compared to Eastern Michigan and Kent State and some of these MAC teams, Temple is like the Red Sox in attracting fans.
Temple is in the upper echelon of attendance and will remain so if the system (i.e., consistent winning) remains in place.
I'd like to see all of our Prodigal Son fans return for the Ball State game this Saturday and the Army game in two weeks.
I know it won't happen, though, because the loss to Nova ruined our season from an attendance perspective. I don't agree with the fans who were so disgusted they told me they won't be back the rest of this year, but I can see that they didn't appreciate that Golden left them open for some needless ball-busting from total assholes for 12 months so I understand their position.
Still, this team deserves your and my support and it will need a significant home field advantage to beat Ball State and Army.
Ticket sales for the Army game among TEMPLE fans are brisk and Temple should draw at least 25,000 for that game.
Let's make it a fun house for us and a house of horrors for them.
That's the bottom line right there and since I've now become a fully committed bottom-line guy, that's really all that matters.

Wear Pink to the Next Home Game:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Watch the Temple-EMU game for free here

A TEMPLE FOOTBALL PRAYER: Please, God, don't make me have to listen to these two guys, who'll be doing the game on WHAT-AM, 1340. (You are OK, Steve, it's Harry who drives me nuts.) And while you are at it, God, how about a 38-10 or 38-3 Owl win? Thanks, God. I'll cut you in for 10 percent of the $200 million, if I win tonight. You know I'm good for it. Amen.

I'm always wary of sites offering something for free, but here's one that caught my eye:
Watch the Temple vs. Eastern Michigan game here for free.
There's really no way to check this out, other than trying it at 1 p.m.
I figure, geez, what have I got to lose?
If the link doesn't work, I can follow plan a) The Eastern Michigan website ($5.95) or plan b) the MAC website.
Hey, if I was independently wealthy, I'd be there with the other 5,000 or so fans expected to be in attendance.
My Herman The German Picks
I have this guy in the neighborhood who hands out white betting slips every week. You must pick at least three games. The more games you pick the better your chances are of winning.
I call him "Herman The German" for no other reason than his name is Herman and he's German.
Or at least of German heritage.
Anyway, Herman offers me these things and I say, "Come back in Oct., when I know something about college football."
So Herman's back and now that some games are played, I know enough to make an educated guess.
So here are my "Herman the German" picks this week, HOME teams are in caps:
South Florida at SYRACUSE _ South Florida is the 6 1/2-point favorite and they'll cover despite being in the dome. South Florida, 28-14.
PURDUE vs. Northwestern _ Purdue is a 7-point favorite and Northwestern went down to the final play with Eastern Michigan. EMU lost to Army by double digits at home. Purdue, 31-17.
MINNESOTA vs. Wisconsin _ Even though Minnesota is at home and a 2 1/2-point favorite, Badgers are significantly better and should cover. Wisconsin, 27-20.
Toledo at BALL ST. _ Toledo hammered Colorado pretty good. Rockets should hammer Ball State, 28-10, and cover the 4 1/2-point spread.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS vs. Western Michigan _ Tim Hiller is a pretty good QB who should keep WMU within the 6 1/2-point spread. A late Garrett Barnas interception seals the deal for Huskies, 18-15. "I could have been the starting QB at Temple," Barnas tells reporters afterward. "But coach Golden is a pretty stubborn guy. At least I'm at a place where I'm appreciated."
But I have to work and the $200 million lottery doesn't happen until about seven hours after the game is over.
So I can't count on winning that.
Gotta work, so I'm going to lug this old laptop to the nearest Panera Bread for my free wi-fi and hope to get my free Owls.
Just in case, I'll bring the credit card, too.
And, yeah, I'll stick a transitor radio in my bag as well just in case plans a, b and c don't work.
If I have to listen to Harry and Steve, I might as well bring Bambo shoots, Chinese Water torture equipment and some pliers to pull my own teeth.
All of those things are less painful than listening to an Owl game on the radio.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week 5 MAC Bloggers Roundable

By Mike Gibson
Every week I participate in the MAC bloggers' roundtable.
I always get the questions on Monday and submit my responses five minutes after opening my email, not because I'm all that anxious to answer the questions but because I know I'll forget otherwise.
This week, it was my honor (err, honor and duty) to ask the questions and I wanted to get the pulse of my fellow MAC members about the Temple Question which will come up before the MAC presidents, maybe by the end of the season.
I didn't answer any questions because it should be a violation for anyone to answer his own questions, but I did participate in the poll (I had Temple fourth, behind CMU, NIU and UT) and I won't divulge anyone else's votes but one member had Temple ranked two spots ahead of me.

My reasoning for not putting Temple higher is simple and reasonable: Give me a Temple win as impressive as NIU's over Purdue, CMu's over Michigan State and Toledo's over Colorado. Until the Owls can close the deal on Penn State or even Villanova, they don't deserve to be ranked among the elite.
At least not now.

So wthout further adieu, or even Freddy Adu, here are the questions and responses (more copying and pasting than should be asked of any human being, by the way):

1) What was the biggest surprise in your mind from Week 4? Was it Hofstra hanging at WMU or Boise State's domination of BGSU or Temple's win over Buffalo?

Let's Go Rockets: Hofstra keeping it competitive at WMU was a bigger surprise in week 4. It was a foregone conclusion that Boise would bring it to BGSU, and while at the beginning of the season we thought Buffalo would be strong, it's obvious in the first few weeks that they're just missing something (Sparks) so Temple's win isn't that surprising. The biggest surprise will be if Temple can keep the momentum throughout the remainder of the season.

Fire Up Chips: I was surprised how poised Ohio was in it's game against Tennessee. I don't know what was giving Frank such a steady hand in his playcalling as 90, 000 fans were bearing down on the Bobcats, but I think it's called experience....THAT, or the 40 of Mickey's he slammed in the bathroom at halftime. Hofstra was coming at WMU like they owed them money or something. It was like that scene in Pulp Fiction were Butch (Bruce Willis) stop at a red light and sees Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) walking across the street carrying a box of donuts.We'll Marcellus Wallace (Hofstra) went right after Butch (WMU). I don't know what WMU did to make Hofstra so mad...but Hofstra should have won that game. I am not sure how my Fightin' Dan LeFevour's were able to put the hurt so bad on Akron. Does't Akron have 4 ex-head coaches, including the ghost of Bear Bryant on their staff? I guess he wanted to coach in the greatest stadium ever constructed by human hands too.

Red and Black Attack (NIU): Ball State was a nice surprise scoring points against a tough Auburn team. My Huskies went ahead and laid an egg against the Idaho Vandals at home. I'm happy that it wasn't conference yet and Idaho looks to be one of those underrated teams this year. Or so I'm hoping.
Over The Pylon: The last game in that list, the Buffalo-Temple game wasn't surprising at all. Temple has a good football team which simply had a bad game against Villanova. Everyone acts like Buffalo is some world beater up there... newsflash... since Willy left they were a one trick pony in Starks who went down with an injury. Too bad for the Bulls fans... guess you'll have to cling dearly to the MAC Championship you were handed on a silver platter with a side of Cardinal fumblitis.

Falcon Blog: I guess Hofstra and WMU, but if hanging around is a surprise, I guess I was just as surprised that OU hung around Tennessee. Both games, obviously, concluded the way they were supposed to.
Rasor on the Zips: Two games stood out. I was surprised to see Ball State put up 30 at Auburn. I was also stunned to see Temple shellack Buffalo.
Red and Black Attack: Ball State was a nice surprise scoring points against a tough Auburn team. My Huskies went ahead and laid an egg against the Idaho Vandals at home. I'm happy that it wasn't conference yet and Idaho looks to be one of those underrated teams this year. Or so I'm hoping.

2) Temple's contract with the MAC runs out in 2011? How do you see it shaking out? Will Temple be dropped to get to 12 or will another team come in to get to 14?

Let's Go Rockets: Can't imagine Temple would get dropped since Philadelphia is a huge market for the MAC. We think it would be more likely that another team would be added to the MAC, rather than give up the potential revenue/talent in the Philadelphia market.
Fire Up Chips: They are a legacy and their name brings a whole another level of distinction to our conference. The other team we should invite...Hofstra. They are just so pumped up. Let em' play.
Over the Pylon: I doubt it will be dropped. I sort of hope that the MAC does get to 12, but I don't want to see Temple bounced. I would like to see Buffalo shown the door... not because I despise them, simply because they're too far away from any one else in the conference to make it an economical trip for us, and certainly not for all their road games. There's not a geographical rivalry like the rest of the MAC, and in listening to most of their fans they act like the MAC is far too small time for them. So I say let 'em go. You want to join the Big East? Great. Have fun in that wasteland.If they, much like the freshmen who never know when exactly to leave a keg party, refuse to leave, then let's scoop Army up. At least that's someone that can make Buffalo not seem so out of left field. But... I would much rather be at 12.
Falcon Blog: That's a really good question, one I had not thought of at all. My opinion is that Temple will stay in the MAC as long as they want to...which, I assume, they won't if they end up winning consistently. As for having an odd number of teams, it does qualify as one of the most asinine things I have ever heard of, and having an odd number of teams makes scheduling difficult to ridiculous. (Note that teams in the East do not play a complete round-robin schedule. And cross-over games count this year or not? I keep forgetting). But, having said that, we are existing and functioning with 13 teams (even if it is stupid) and I don't see us dropping Temple to get to an even number.
Rasor on the Zips: Temple has proven it's worthy of playing in the conference. I think the MAC loves the Philly market too much just to drop the Owls.

Red and Black Attack: I'm no MAC commish, but I'm more about addition than subtraction. How's Villanova looking this year?

3) For entertainment purposes only, some interesting early lines: Central Michigan favored by 9 at Buffalo, Temple favored by 4 1/2 at EMU, Toledo favored by 7 at Ball State, Cincy by 26 1/2 at Miami, Bowling Green by 2 1/2 over visiting Ohio, NIU by 6 1/2 over visiting WMU ... WHICH LINE JUMPED OUT AT YOU AS OUT OF WHACK AND WHY?

Let's Go Rockets: CMU favored by 9 at Buffalo jumped out to us first because CMU will win more convincingly than 9 points. If Toledo plays the kind of football we're capable of, it shouldn't be a problem to cover the 7 point spread. Ball State has had success against the Rockets in Muncie in the last few years, but that will change starting this Saturday. With Miami being so bad this year, Cincinnati by 26 1/2 is both expected and a pathetic MAC showing.

Fire Up Chips: Temple should destroy EMU. I talked to an EMU player who told me their O-line is decimated by injury. Rght now EMU has a manquin playing O-line. They just wheel him out, hit the parking break, and let the other team run around him in order to have 11 men on the field. The funny thing is, they are giving up less sacks per game with "Egbert E. Eagle" their newest paper machet recruit on the field, than last year, when they were asking a 210 pound true freshman to protect the QB.

Over The Pylon: Out of whack? CMU only getting 9. I would lay 19 were I betting. Everything else seems a bit ok, though the BG line and the Cincy line could be a whole hell of a lot higher and I'd still feel comfortable with them. Disclaimer: For anyone actually thinking of betting on MAC football... don't. Mail me 50% of what you were going to be and I will come punch you in the nose. It will hurt less, be less frustrating, and only cost you 50% of what your sure to lose bet would have. You're welcome.
Falcon Blog: Well, three jump out at me. I think 7 points is a lot to give Ball State at home. I know they are having a rough year, but they will win eventually, and Muncie has traditionally been a chamber of horrors for the Rockets, so that one might be a little out of whack. And, while I think NIU will beat WMU, it seems like 6.5 points is a little high. I know kicking the shit out of WMU has been the favorite pastime, but I would suggest their season has been a little better than people think, they are still dangerous--or at least as dangerous as Idaho, right? Finally, I like CMU by 19 or Buffalo. Or 29.

Rasor on the Zips: Toledo is laying 7 points on the road to the defending division champs. That is an awful lot.

Red and Black Attack: Toledo and Bowling Green both being favored on the road is very, very strange. I'll take the home dog in either of these situations. Especially the OU game.

4) Who is doing the best head coaching job in the league so far and why?

Let's Go Rockets: There's plenty of evidence to support the notion that Tim Beckman, at Toledo, is doing the best coaching job in the MAC so far this season. He has turned the program in a new direction and resurrected the entire offense - taking one that relied on bubble screens (constantly) with little success, and turning it into one that is #9 in the nation, mixes it up, and really guns it down field when neccesary. More than just that, he's instilled confidence back into the Rockets, on both sides of the ball and that leads to more dynamic plays and more efficiency on the field, in all facets of play. It's impossible to say where the rest of the season will go, but Beckman has helped changed the way the University and the way the fans view the football team and that is directly beneficial to the success of the team for the long term.
Fire Up Chips: Butch Jones is pretty serious about our football program and he has our kids firing on all cylinders right now. Our program is probably one of the hardest to survive mentally and physically in the country. Players leave all the time because they don't like how Coach Jones challenges them to be the best. But those who stay win a lot of games.
I of course will change my opinion when we lose a conference game and call on Jones to resign (kidding).
Over The Pylon: I think Tim Beckman, if only for the way they've played and how drastic that's been compared to years past. Toledo Tom was no genious, but with this sort of talent on the roster that he misused and didn't capitalize on, maybe he should have been fired way before when he was. A close second is Jerry Kill... if only because I am looking forward to the fun and festivities we're going to have at his expense when BSU and NIU get it on like donkey kong till the break of dawn.

Falcon Blog: I'm going to go with Jerry Kill, for two reasons. First, that team is bouncing right back and is playing very solid football. Second, I can't bring myself to say Tim Beckman.

Rasor on the Zips: While you can always point to Butch Jones, Tim Beckman has turned Toledo around for the time being.
Red and Black Attack: Butch Jones, and it's not even close. Every other coach in this league has already had their ups and downs or looked extremely shaky. BJ has been consistent and upset Michigan State. Would have thought about Coach Kill here had it not been for this past weekend's blunder.

5) Rate the MAC (1-13, poll results)
1) CMU ... all seven first-place votes;
2) NIU
3) UT
5) TU
6) WMU
7) OU
8) UB
9) KSU
10) UA
11) Ball State
12) EMU
13) Miami