Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Looking ahead to Northern Illinois

Scott Hartkorn's great video over TU's encounter with the other Huskies.

In a perfect world, this would be a good time for a nice bye for the Temple University football team.
Don't get me wrong.
I hate byes.
A weekend without Temple football, to me, is a lost weekend.
Still, I can't think of a better time in recent Temple football memory (starting with the Al Golden years) for a bye.

How good is Northern Illinois?
Well, the Huskies have won at Minnesota, 34-23. (Doesn't it seem like yesterday when the Owls lost at Minnesota, 62-0?)
They have beaten North Dakota, 23-17.
They lost at Illinois, 28-22 (a team that gave Ohio State all it could handle).
They lost at Iowa State, 27-10 (a team that buried Texas Tech, 52-28).
They won at Akron, 50-14.
This is a very good team.
The Franchise, AKA Bernard Pierce, could certainly use an extra week to heal his ankle.
The team has just been through a gaunlet that included winning a trophy for football superiority in its hometown (a must game, if there ever was one), beating the perennial league power (Central Michigan), winning a grudge match against both a good football team (UConn) and a league (the Big East, with a lower case t) and winning at Army's homecoming before 33,000 fans.
If a team ever needed a rest, it is the Owls.
So Al Golden gave them one.
Two days.
That's it.
Now the Owls have to fly halfway across the country and play a Northern Illinois team that might be the best team they've played so far and that includes Penn State. (We don't know that for sure so that's why we're using the word might. If Penn State beats Illinois by more than 28-22, Penn State will have been the best team on Temple's schedule.)
There's not much a belief that the Owls can beat this team at this time, if the nation's bettors are any indication.
The Huskies opened as 1 1/2-point favorites on Sunday night. By Monday morning, it was 2 1/2. By Tuesday morning, it was 3 1/2. By this morning, it is 4.
A lot of that is the uncertainty over whether Bernard Pierce can play and how effectively he can play if he does.
Maybe at least a little of it is the bettors watching Chester Stewart game film.
Either way, it does not show a whole lot of confidence in the Owls.
Stewart is going to have to play better, avoid a Penn State-like three-pick performance  and his penchant for fumbling for the Owls to have a chance.
There's very little in the game film to believe that he will.
Chester improved over the Penn State game, but the improvement was inches, not feet. He did fumble a ball that Army recovered late in the game, but that was not reviewed. Good for Temple that it wasn't, but an indication that the bad habit hasn't been shaken.
I think Temple's best chance is to have both Bernie and the Bug back there in a two-man set and have the NIU defense on their heels.
Throw on first down to keep them on their heels more. Use play-action on second and third down. Get Joey Jones in there to run reverses and then have him throw off reverses.
It's going to take a full bag of Matt Rhule's tricks to win this one.
If the Owls can pull this off, on the road and  as tired mentally and beat up physically as they are, it will be their most impressive win of the season.