In theory, you would like for all of your weeknight games to be interesting matchups when your conference is moving games to those slots to increase exposure.
Sometimes it pays off, and you get this:
Other times, well….
Good Lord. That Temple/UConn highlight video is only three minutes long, and more than half of it is the first quarter.
My point is, all you can do is create the matchups and hope that when the time comes, the odds work in your favor to produce a game that makes fans glad they tuned in on a weeknight.
So what do we get this week? Temple hosting Tulsa, which is pretty much guaranteed to be interesting, though we are a ways from knowing if it’s a “good” interesting.
Tulsa has been a bit of a roller coaster so far. They opened the season at home against a good FCS program in Central Arkansas, and needed until the final eight minutes to take the lead for good. Luke Skipper and the offense got better as the game wore on, and the run game dominated the fourth quarter to pull away.
Against Texas, the first half was a hot mess. Skipper went 7-for-16 for 39 yards and 2 INT and two kickers missed a total of three field goals. The Golden Hurricane took over possession with 4:39 left in the third quarter still trailing only 21-0 despite driving inside the Texas 30-yard line four times and managed to get all the way to 28-21 before they kicked off with five minutes left and never got the ball back.
Another furious comeback against Arkansas State fell short in the third week, and a trend has now emerged. Tulsa has outscored their three opponents by a combined 51-16 in the last 20 minutes of game time; problem is, they’ve been outscored 67-28 in the 40 minutes before that.
Which Tulsa will show up this week? Early-game Tulsa? Late-game Tulsa? Both? Neither? They clearly intend to run the ball for success this season, but Skipper is going to need to have more success earlier on to get one over on Temple.
Speaking of which, the Owls have been the… well, I want to say more consistent team, but Tulsa hasn’t been inconsistent as much as they’ve been bad in the same way three times.
Temple has changed quarterbacks this season, as ex-starter and strong-armed darling Frank Marchi may have already worn out his welcome. Against a good but FCS-level Villanova, the Owls offense only mustered 10 points, missed a chip-shot field goal, and Marchi capped off the game by throwing interceptions on his last two pass attempts to finish 18-for-32 for 185 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT.
Things went better against Buffalo, but the offense still only managed 22 points, and if you take out Nutile’s two big pass touchdowns (one in each half) his final line becomes a paltry 14-for-29 for 154 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT.
Then against Maryland, things seemed to start clicking.
The Owls defense only let the Terps across the Temple 45 yard line once in the first three quarters, and that was on a drive that started at the Maryland 38, and never allowed them into the red zone. All of Maryland’s points came on defense and special teams.
The offense was rather boom-or-bust with four touchdowns, three three-and-outs and a pick-six in the first eight possessions, but it was still more than enough. It also helped that the defense finally held an opponent not just under 400 yards, but under 200 as well.
So is the good defense against Maryland the real deal? Is Anthony Russo a better option under center than Nutile? A bunch of questions should get answered in this game.
Both of these teams came into the season with hopes of contending that have been knocked for a loop through three weeks. We’ll probably need to recalibrate our expectations of each team again after this one, but a relatively even matchup on paper should produce some meaningful data for the rest of the conference season.