Bowl eligibility on line when Temple visits Tulsa
If Temple goes 6-6 and becomes bowl eligible, an AAC offiical says the Owls would "absolutely" earn a bowl bid, unlike 2014.
As much as the Temple football players and coach Geoff Collins say they are preparing the same as usual for their final regular-season game, some are admitting that this one has extra significance.
Yes, the players are all saying they want to go 1-0 this week, as they have for the previous 11 weeks, but going 0-1 would definitely end the season, adding to the urgency.
Temple (5-6, 3-4 American Athletic Conference) visits Tulsa (2-9, 1-6) Saturday, and the Owls must win to become bowl eligible. The last time they were in this situation, Temple won 10-3 at Tulane to finish the 2014 season 6-6 and become bowl eligible.
The Owls didn't receive a bowl bid that season, but this year going 6-6 would "absolutely" earn a spot, according to an AAC official.
That's because the AAC has seven guaranteed tie-ins to bowls. Six teams already are bowl eligible. Like Temple, Tulane (5-6) would become bowl eligible with an AAC win at SMU (6-5).
Even if eight teams from the AAC are bowl eligible, there is a strong likelihood that the AAC champion could earn the New Year's Six bowl game. leaving seven teams to fill seven spots.
Plus there are a number of conferences that will not be able to provide an eligible team to their contracted bowls, according to the official.
It's likely that the players don't know all the scenarios. All they are worried about is beating a Tulsa team that is better than its record.
"They are probably the best two-win team in the country," Temple redshirt senior defensive end Sharif Finch said.
That wasn't hyperbole.
Last week Tulsa traveled to a now-9-1 South Florida team and lost just 27-20. Temple's trip to South Florida earlier this year resulted in a 43-7 loss. And last month Tulsa posted its lone AAC win at Houston, 45-17, two weeks after the Cougars beat Temple at the Linc, 20-13.
So this won't be a slam dunk for the Owls, especially after last week's 45-19 loss to unbeaten Central Florida in which Temple committed five turnovers.
Finch remembers the last time Temple went 6-6 and didn't earn a bowl bid. While it felt like a punch to the gut, Finch felt better days lay ahead.
"It didn't hit you as hard because you felt you have tomorrow, next year," Finch said. "Being a senior, it is now all or nothing for us."
That has been the theme, to win one for the seniors.
Countering that is that it will be senior day at Tulsa.
"For us, it will be about sending out seniors out the right way," Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said on Monday's AAC media call.
That sounds eerily similar to Temple's battle cry.
"We want to go 1-0 this week, take care of business and send the seniors out the right way, and go out there and execute," said Temple redshirt junior quarterback Frank Nutile, who will make his fifth straight start.
So both teams will use their upperclassmen as motivation. Temple simply has more at stake with the ability to extend the season and the careers of their seniors for one more coveted game.