ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Matt Rhule wanted to be forceful but not disrespectful. In relation to discussing bowl options, that is almost as difficult as stopping Navy's triple-option attack.
The Temple coach was able to accomplish both goals.
Temple's defense held one of the most dangerous offenses in check during a 34-10 win over Navy on Saturday in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
After the game, Rhule walked the tightrope of campaigning for his conference and indirectly his team, while trying to do so without belittling another college program as it relates to the Cotton Bowl.
This season the top Group of Five school (one not from the Power 5 conferences) will earn a berth in the Jan. 2 Cotton Bowl.
Entering the weekend, Temple needed two things to happen to earn a once seemingly improbable Cotton Bowl berth.
The Owls did their part with their decisive win. On Friday night Ohio University did its best, taking Western Michigan to the limit before falling, 29-23, in the Mid-American Conference championship game.
Western Michigan (13-0) appears a cinch to earn the Cotton Bowl berth from among the Group of Five schools.
Temple is 10-3 and a winner of seven straight. The Owls have wins over two teams that are ranked in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 - No. 20 Navy and No. 25 South Florida.
"I will never talk down about another team," Rhule said. "I think that any team that goes undefeated, I wish them all the best."
He was referring to Western Michigan.
Then Rhule began talking about the virtues of the AAC. Houston has wins over No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 16 Louisville and finished just fourth in the Western Division, where Navy was the champion.
"If you win this league, you should go to a New Year's Six Bowl," Rhule said. "When you see what the teams in our league have done in those New Year's Six Bowls, you should want to have us there."
Just last season, Houston, as the Group of Five representative, beat Florida State, 34-28 in the Peach Bowl.
"I am not saying anything about Western Michigan," Rhule said. "I am saying something about this league. this is a tough, tough, tough league."