SO, HOW MANY teams go from 2-10 to 10-2 in two years?
That's what Temple did Saturday night at the Linc. The Owls (10-2, 7-1) beat Connecticut (6-6, 4-4), which was coming off a win over unbeaten Houston, to secure the American Athletic Conference East Division title and a spot in this Saturday afternoon's inaugural title game at Houston (11-1). The Cougars had captured the West on Friday with a 52-31 home win over Navy (9-2).
The champion will almost assuredly get to play in a New Year's Bowl, likely the Peach on Dec. 31 but possibly the Fiesta the following day.
The Owls, who dominated UConn, 27-3, are ranked 20th, the highest they've been this year. Or since 1979, when they finished 17th. Houston is No. 17.
Two years ago in Matt Rhule's debut, the Owls lost to FCS Fordham and at Idaho, which finished 1-11. Twenty-two seniors who were largely responsible for making the U-turn played in South Philly for the last time.
Now here they are. Which explains why Rhule reportedly met with Missouri's athletic director on Sunday about its job opening. And how many SEC programs have shown interest in the guy at North Broad before? The timing, of course, could have been better, but this is what happens when you have success, especially at a place that hasn't had much.
The only other time the Owls had a 10-win season was 36 years ago. This one's hardly over.
Toledo's Matt Campbell, whose name had also surfaced with Missouri's (5-7) search to replace Gary Pinkel, is headed to Iowa State instead. The Tigers went 1-7 in the SEC, but did win the East in 2013 and '14. Don't expect Rhule, or Temple, to comment. If nothing comes of this, it doesn't figure to be the last vacancy he's linked with. Temple obviously will do everything it can to keep him, but it's about what Rhule thinks is best for him. As it should be.
Memphis' Justin Fuente just got the Virginia Tech opening, a year after everyone figured he was gone. Rhule, who likes it here as much as his family, might decide to stay for at least a while longer to maybe accomplish even more. Or he could get an offer that's impossible to walk away from.
In the meantime, the Owls will be going for their first conference title since the old Middle Atlantic in 1967. That was four years before they began playing at the Division I-A level.
It was 10-0 at halftime, 20-0 after three quarters. Jahad Thomas, who's been slowed by injuries, carried 20 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, including a 60-yarder with 8 1/2 minutes left. The Owls held UConn, which was without starting quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, to 138 yards. It's the fourth time they've kept an opponent under 200. And the fourth time they've held someone without an offensive TD. They haven't allowed any TDs in over 122 minutes.
They lost at Houston last year, 31-10. So far they've played four teams that beat them in 2014: Penn State, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Memphis. They're 4-0.
Does anyone remember that this group was picked to finish third in its half of the AAC?
Michigan State 55, Penn State 16
The Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) lost their third straight, all against ranked opponents. This time it was to a team that had just knocked off No. 1 on the road and needed a victory to clinch the East Division, set up a title-game matchup against unbeaten Iowa and keep its playoff aspirations .
The Spartans (11-1) led 20-10 at intermission. They forced four turnovers, returning a fumble and an interception for scores. Michigan State's Connor Cook, whose status had been iffy, threw for three TDs.
The Lions played four true road games and lost each of them. The others were at Temple, Ohio State and Northwestern, which have five losses among them. They did beat 3-9 Maryland in Baltimore by a point.
They scored more than 30 three times, but never got more than 39. With junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who's projected as a high NFL draft pick when he comes out, which could be after this year. On Sunday, second-year coach James Franklin relieved offensive coordinator John Donovan of his duties. He'd been Franklin's OC at Vanderbilt from 2011-13 as well.
The Lions will go to a minor bowl. Last season they played in their first one since 2011 and beat Boston College in the Pinstripe in New York by one in overtime.
Michael Jack's Top 10
1. Clemson (12-0). Beat South Carolina, 37-32. Saturday: ACC title game vs. North Carolina in Charlotte, N.C. Beat UNC last year at home, 50-35. Lost last time they played Heels in N.C., at Chapel Hill in 2010.
2. Alabama (11-1). Beat Auburn, 29-13. Saturday: SEC title game vs. Florida in Atlanta. Beat Florida by 21 at home last year. Has won last four meetings. Tide is 5-4 in SEC finals, Gators 7-3.
3. Oklahoma (11-1). Beat Oklahoma State, 58-23. Next: Bowl game to be determined. Big 12 champ will finally get a chance to see how it stacks up in playoff field.
4. Michigan State (11-1). Beat Penn State, 55-16. Saturday: Big Ten title game vs. Iowa in Indianapolis. Last played Iowa in 2013, a 12-point road win. That Iowa team went 8-5. Those Spartans won Big Ten and Rose Bowl.
5. Iowa (12-0). Beat Nebraska, 28-20. Saturday: Big Ten title game vs. Michigan State in Indianapolis. We'll finally get to see what Hawkeyes really got. Should be interesting.
6. Ohio State (11-1). Beat Michigan, 42-13. Next: Bowl game TBD. The real Buckeyes finally showed up, a little too late.
7. Stanford (10-2). Beat Notre Dame, 38-36. Saturday: Pac-12 title game vs. Southern Cal in Santa Clara, Calif. Won at USC on Sept. 19, 41-21. Lost to Trojans the last two years.
8. Notre Dame (10-2). Lost at Stanford, 38-36. Next: Bowl game TBD. Irish six points away from being No. 1.
9. North Carolina (11-1). Beat North Carolina State, 45-34. Saturday: ACC title game vs. Clemson in Charlotte, N.C. Hasn't won conference title since 1980. Clemson has won it once since 1991. That was four years ago.
10. Florida State (10-2). Beat Florida, 27-2. Next: Bowl game TBD. Have won seven of last eight bowl games, if you count last season's CFP semifinal.
Next five: Texas Christian (10-2), Baylor (9-2), Northwestern (10-2), Oklahoma State (10-2) and Florida (10-2).
Michael Jack's Fraud Five
Toledo - Can't be losing at home to five-loss Western Michigan when, because Northern Illinois just lost at home to four-loss Ohio, you have a chance to play in MAC title game and maybe get to New Year's bowl.
Michigan - It's OK to lose to Ohio State, again, even at home, even the week after Buckeyes lost at home to Michigan State. Still, 42-13 seems excessive.
Oklahoma State - It's OK to lose to Oklahoma, even at home with Big 12 title on line, but not by 58-23.
Navy - It's OK to lose at Houston, even the week after Cougars lost at Connecticut, but again, 52-31 seems like a bit much.
Washington State - It's OK to lose at Washington, even a six-loss Washington, even when you've won six of your last seven to get to 8-3, but 45-10 isn't acceptable.
Dishonorable mentions: UCLA, for losing by 19 at USC after leading midway through the third quarter. And Rutgers, for allowing a 2-9 Maryland team to win the second half on the road, 33-10, to win by five. But maybe that's why Rutgers is 4-8.