You can imagine the conversation they had at Temple a few years ago, putting the 2019 football schedule together.
“All right, we’ve got Maryland and Georgia Tech coming in.”
A good pair of games.
“And we’re going to Buffalo.”
A trap game, that one. As it turned out, the Owls already got trapped last season, losing the home end of the Buffalo home-and-home.
“All right, find a game we’re supposed to win. We can pay a little for it. Go find a W.”
Fast-forward, new conversation ….
“Here it is, boss, a school we played every season from 1927 to 1970. We played for a trophy, The Old Shoe.”
“Perfect, find that shoe.”
The replica trophy of the old shoe was on display all these years in Temple’s football office, now at 10th and Diamond. The old shoe will not, in fact, be on the line Saturday when Temple hosts Bucknell at 3 p.m., in the first game of the Rod Carey era.
They’re not trying to re-create ancient history. Carey obviously wasn’t involved in scheduling this season’s game, but he’s on board with it, calling Bucknell a rivalry game, ignoring the fact that he wasn’t born the last time the schools met.
Bucknell isn’t exactly at the top of the Patriot League. Last season. Penn beat the Bison, 34-17. The next week, Villanova beat them by 49-7, scoring 42 by halftime. The Owls opened as a 40½-point favorite, according to Vegasinsider.com.
Now, if Lou Holtz were coaching Temple, he’d make the Bison out to be just a notch below Clemson on the football hierarchy, conveniently failing to mention how there are seven schools that play Patriot League football and this season Bucknell is picked a clear seventh.
Carey played it perfectly, noting Bucknell has a new coach (Dave Cecchini) and will be looking to start its own new era.
“They have our full attention,’’ Carey said Tuesday.
Owls quarterback Anthony Russo noted how his group is looking at pre-snap film of Division II Ohio Dominican because that’s where Bucknell’s new defensive coordinator came from, then watched Bucknell tape to get a handle on personnel.
“A football game is a football game,’’ Owls running back Jager Gardner said. “We don’t take anybody lightly.”
You detect a vibe of quiet confidence about this Temple group. It seems the players and coaches think they might have something this season.
“We’ve got so many weapons,’’ Gardner said. “Everybody can be all over the field at the same time. It’s going to be scary.”
Russo is just coming back from a calf injury. He practiced fully for the first time Tuesday, and once he got to Wednesday without big inflammation popping up, he was officially named the starter for Saturday.
The head coach isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We only get 12 of these,’’ Carey said. “So they’re precious.”
It’s not as if Temple is alone in scheduling an opening easy one. Up in Happy Valley, Penn State will get going with Idaho, picked eighth in the Big Sky.
For those who will say Saturday’s attendance at Lincoln Financial Field — whatever it turns out to be — shows Temple needs an on-campus stadium, the issue seems like a non-starter right now. (The neighbors are up more than 40 points in that contest.)
The 3 p.m. kickoff gives students time to wake up and get down there. Look at it like this: The opponent and the venue and the old shoe shouldn’t be such a factor. Temple folks have a chance to get a first look at what could be a pretty good Owls team, if you buy into the vibe.