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.
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."
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.
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.