Temple-Miami (OH): German Pop Cover Band Edition

Temple-Miami (OH): German Pop Cover Band Edition

Those of you who troubled yourselves to watch the WWL's mid-week MAC coverage over the past week and a half will attest to having seen some of the most exciting college football played all season. For as much criticism as the MAC tends to catch—some of which is fair, some of which is unfair—it's entertainment level can be and is no doubt equal to any BCS conference.

You either like watching football, or you like pretending to be "discerning." If you fall into the former camp—if you actually like football—welcome to the Mid-American Conference.

Temple hosts Miami (OH) in a battle of two teams who will both take the field with their seasons on the line. Kick-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. (ESPN / 1210 AM)

How We Got Here:
After an 0-4 start to their season—thanks, in part, to a difficult non-conference schedule featuring (preseason #21) Missouri, Minnesota and Cincinnati—the Miami (OH) Redhawks have won four of their last five and seem to be on the uptick. Temple, meanwhile, is the loser of its last two in a row, losses which may have very well cost the Owls a shot at the MAC Title and even a bowl game.

This evening is a must-win for both teams. By no scenario can Temple win the MAC East at 4-4, while Miami would need a victory over and some serious help from the Ohio Bobcats should they come up short tonight.

Recapping from last week, the Owls best-case MAC scenario features a 5-3 in-conference record and a complete collapse from Ohio. Bowling Green has already done their part by losing to Northern Illinois last evening.

Click here for a full breakdown of Temple's fleeting MAC Title chances. Go Buffalo.

At Quarterback
Temple head coach Steve Addazio confirmed last Friday that Chris Coyer will start under center for the Owls.

Coyer, who was responsible for 307 yards of Temple offense against Ohio—184 yards rushing, 123 receiving—will be making the first start of his college career.

Given the high-rate of success in his first taste of big game action last week, it's clear Coyer isn't the kind of player to become overwhelmed by the situation. His coach has described him as "unflappable," and as an a very even-keeled quarterback, an attitude, Addazio says, that should not be confused with a lack of intensity.

"He's a competitor," says Addazio. "He's a gamer."

After building such high expectations in less than four full quarters of work against Ohio, Coyer needs to find a way to repeat that success. Aside from his cool, calm demeanor, he's also been described by his coach as somewhat of an erratic passer in practice. The question now is whether that will be indicative his performance of the field—throw to throw, series to series, game to game.

Coyer quickly earned himself a great number of supporters with his performance at Ohio. Tonight may go a long way in finding out if those supporters jumped the gun or if the sophomore really is the guy with the immediate ability to lead the Temple offense. The bad news for the sophomore quarterback is that unlike against Ohio, Miami (OH) has had the opportunity to game plan for him and should be able to key on him, especially given the Owls situation at running back.

Bernard Pierce's Concussion
What was an undisclosed "head injury" to star running back Bernard Pierce has now been confirmed as a concussion. Coach Steve Addazio and the rest of the Temple staff make a specific point not to discuss injuries with the media. As such, his status remains unknown at this time and probably will remain so right up to game time.

There's nothing wrong with optimism, but given the way concussions are now being treated, and the fact that there's been very little news regarding his status, it might be imprudent to get your hopes up.

Should Pierce not be able to go, the bulk of the running game will fall on the shoulders of Matt Brown, back-up running back Kenny Harper and, of course, Coyer. With Brown himself battling some nagging injuries and Harper having seen very little time this season, tonight might be really become the "Chris Coyer Show."

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Update: The Inquirer's Keith Pompey is reporting that Matt Brown is currently listed number one on the depth chart, with freshman runner Jaylen Fitzpatrick as his back-up, after he "outperformed Kenny Harper this week at practice."

Fitzpatrick was actually a dual-threat quarterback during his senior of high school, and was converted to wide receiver upon joining the Owls. After nine games with the Owls, Fitzpatrick has a combined total of zero touches on the football. Addazio must have really liked what he saw in practice.

Obviously, this neither guarantees him reps nor precludes Harper from carrying the ball, it's just another testament to Steve Addazio not wanting anyone to get to comfortable in their spot when he has, in his estimation, "a lot of talent" up and down the roster.

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Is Miami for Real?
Good question. Wish I could answer it. Yes, they are winners of four of their last five, but those wins come against teams with a combined record of 9-27.

They've won the games they should have and lost the games in which they've been challenged. Tonight is as big for them as it is for Temple. Whether they're "for real" or not, expect them to be as hungry, if not even hungrier than the Owls.

Mandatory Pop Culture Education
I've done what I could to include as many musical guests as possible over the course of the season. Admittedly, I haven't always kept up with the theme, but I've tried to work them in when possible.

In consideration of the fact that I've had to repeatedly type "(OH)" after "Miami," I've begun to think of the city as somewhat like a cover band for the real Miami.

Accordingly, I present to you "The Baseballs"—a German pop cover band, who takes a whole mess of songs you wouldn't ordinarily associate with one another and tries to make it all sound like the Beach Boys.

And now, Will Smith! ...sort of:

See you post-game.

Sixers fail to take care of business against Denver Nuggets

Sixers fail to take care of business against Denver Nuggets

It really felt like we could've gotten this one. The Denver Nuggets are hardly pushovers, but they came into this one a 7-13 team that'd lost their last three games, and even last night they seemed fairly beatable, even for a Philadelphia 76ers team still missing Robert Covington (in additional to our usual mini-roster of absentees). But Philly's energy sagged in the third quarter as Denver caught a second wind, and they spent the final frame hitting shots that the Sixers couldn't answer. Final score: Nuggets 106, 76ers 98. 

The most sobering part of the loss was that Joel Embiid finally played what would best be described as "a bad game." Not that bad, of course — even at his worst, Joel still managed 16 points and notched career-high five blocks. But he only shot 5-15 from the field, turned ball over three times, grabbed just four boards and played a large part in the sinkhole offense that the Sixers played in the late third and early fourth that ultimately cost them this one. JoJo still has trouble reading double teams and knowing when not to attack into traffic, and his frustration was extremely evident as he kept trying to do too much and paying the price for it. 

Nonetheless, even with an off Embiid night and a still-slumping Sauce — officially down to Left in the Car Overnight temperature after a night of 4 points on 1-7 shooting in 35 minutes — Philly probably still coulda gotten this one. Sergio Rodriguez appears to have swiped Nik's swag at least temporarily, with a season-high 17 points on 7-14 shooting to go with seven dimes and three steals, while Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova also poured in 17 and 8 each, and the Nuggets wings were largely kept quiet for two and a half quarters. But even while struggling, the Nuggets paraded their way to free-throw line — 34 FTAs for the night, including 12 for Danilo Gallinari alone — and once they caught fire late, the Sixers just couldn't keep up. 

A bummer for a team that's now lost seven in a row, and has to face the Grizzlies tonight in Memphis — their fourth game in five nights, and the first of a three-game road trip — without Embiid and also without Jahlil Okafor, out with illness. Even with the Grizz missing their own big names (no Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph or Vince Carter lately) and likely suffering from fatigue of their own after a double-OT road win last night in New Orleans, the 4-17 Sixers are gonna have a tough go matching Memphis' grit and grind tonight. Anytime you feel like Supermanning in and saving the day now would be cool, Nerlens Noel. Just sayin'.

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Elton Brand is back with the Sixers, albeit not on the court.

The Sixers agreed with the former NBA forward to name Brand Player Development Consultant. In a press release, the team said Brand will be working with Sixers players in 'every facet of their on- and off-court development' while also working in the front office.

“We are extremely excited to bring Elton Brand back into the organization where he will be a valuable resource to our young and developing team," Bryan Colangelo said in the release. "Elton’s leadership and character displayed throughout his playing career as a player align perfectly with our vision, direction and culture of this basketball team, coaching staff and management group."

Brand retired during training camp after 17 NBA seasons, including five with the Sixers over two stints. The 6-foot-8 forward came out of retirement last season to provide a veteran presence for the Sixers and eventually played in 17 games when the team was snakebitten by injuries. 

He will now continue to be an influence on the Sixers' young core thanks to his new role with the basketball operations department.