So, when was the last time an FBS team had this much reason to get pumped about playing an FCS opponent?

Well, this is what can happen when the FCS club beat the FBS guys the year before, as in Villanova 27, Temple 24.

Welcome to the Mayor's Cup, Round II. What else do you really need to compute?

It doesn't matter that Villanova went on to win the FCS championship. Or that Temple still had its best season in 3 decades.

It's more of a perception thing. The FBS team usually is supposed to win. Of course, you could ask Michigan about that. Or maybe the three FBS teams that also lost to Colonial Athletic Assocation schools last season (Ball State, Virginia and Duke).

Still, when it's a city thing, this stuff takes on a whole deeper meaning.

Whatever happens today at Lincoln Financial Field (5 p.m. kickoff), both teams will play many other games that ultimately carry more weight when it comes to getting where they want to go. But pride counts, too.

"It's important, because it's a significant game," said Temple coach Al Golden, who has elevated the program from oblivion to 9-4 in four seasons. "Because it's [become] a rivalry, all those things.

"To be honest, the whole month is meaningful. It's a big month for us. It's not [just] about this game."

Next Thursday night, the Owls will host Central Michigan, your defending Mid-American Conference champion. Then Connecticut, coming off a bowl win, comes to town. After that, the Owls are off to Penn State, which hasn't lost to them in 35 tries dating to 1941.

The Wildcats actually have taken the last three meetings. In 2003, in the first college game at the Linc, they needed overtime. And 30 years ago, in the last game they played in what was then Division I-A, the final was 23-7 on the Main Line.

Last September, when the game was played on a Thursday, the 'Cats scored the last 13 points in the closing 10 minutes to win on a last-play field goal.

"I was just amazed," said Tahir Whitehead, Temple's outside linebacker. "It was like disbelief. You just start thinking back to all the previous plays in the game that brought us to that point."

Like maybe the five turnovers. Or the fact that Temple's defense looked a bit lost at the end.

Nevertheless . . .

"I wouldn't say there's a certain score to settle," free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett said. "We're just trying to get through the day. Every year, a team is reborn."

Which is another way of saying that the past is just that. Yet certain images do tend to linger.

"Now that we got through camp, the fun part is the season," said center John Palumbo, part of an offensive line that was the team's MVP a year ago and could be again. "Obviously, everyone's looking forward to the season. I'm not saying we're pointing to this, or we want to play Villanova so bad. We just want to get into the season."

And it just so happens that Villanova is once again the first up.

"It's a great challenge for us," Golden said. "It should be a lot of fun. I said the same thing a year ago. People are starting to talk about it. There's a little buzz.

"Like our [basketball] game against Villanova. That's the way it's going to be."

Much like Villanova experiences each year when it has to deal with Penn.

"We don't look at ourselves as the underdogs," said Villanova quarterback Chris Whitney, who threw for 278 yards last year against Temple, the majority of it late. "They're a great team. We heard they've got a clock in their locker room counting down the kickoff for Villanova. We're treating it like another game. I know everyone says that, but we try to do that every week.

"The first game's always big. We know they're going to have it in for us. That's good. So we have to come out extra hard. It's a big thing for Philly. We don't want to give [the Cup] back just yet."

Last year's victory eventually went a long way in setting up the run to the title. In that sense, the Wildcats have more to gain, even if conventional wisdom would suggest they have little to lose.

"On the national scene, it's not that important," said Villanova coach Andy Talley, who is 3-11 against FBS teams (he also beat Rutgers in 2002), with four of the losses coming by 10 or less. "But it's a Philly game, so it means a lot within the city . . .

"A lot of Villanova fans think we're just going to beat Temple, because we're Villanova."

So, how's that for an upset? *