MAC Attack

Temple football is a joke, right? Right?

Actually, not as much as it used to be. Having joined the MAC, the Owls are looking a little better. Don't get me wrong: they haven't done anything crazy like win a game yet this year. But they've shown up.

They gave Navy, UConn and Bowling Green much better games than oddsmakers believed they would, and have shown new hope on offense. Adam DiMichele has played pretty well at quarterback (223 pass yards per game), and center Alex Derenthal was preseason all-MAC, and is a candidate for the Rimington Trophy (honoring the nation's top center). Don't get me wrong: this team's rushing attack is a mess, and they're not world-beaters by any stretch. But they've got some things going for 'em Saturday.

First off, they're coming off the third game of a three-game road stretch, the last of which was a predictable sleepwalking loss to Army. This is homecoming for the Owls, the second straight visiting homecoming into which Northern Illinois will walk. And now NIU is playing the third game of a three-game road stretch. It's a definite look-ahead kind of game for the Huskies, who have a revenge game against Western Michigan next week. So the schedule very much favors Temple here.

Trends-wise, this is also an intriguing match-up for Temple. They've been just awful straight up the last couple years, as we all know, yet they're 4-0 against the spread in their last four as a home underdog and 5-1 ATS in their last six conference games. Meanwhile Northern Illinois is 1-4 ATS in their last five overall and 1-5 ATS in their last six as a favorite. This NIU team is known by bettors because of its MAC success over the last half-decade and the two bowls in which it's played in the last three years. But the '07 version of the Huskies isn't nearly in the same class as its predecessors.

As I mentioned last week (when I picked Central Michigan to thump UNI), Garrett Wolfe is gone, and Justin Anderson is a fine player, but not NFL-caliber. (This year's supposed No. 1 back, Montell Clayton, is out for the year with a knee injury.) This team's youth is also a problem, as reflected in the multiple turnovers and red-zone mistakes they made last week. Finally, there's the defense: it was supposed to be the strength of this team, but it's just not there anymore. Linebacker Tim McCarthy was the heart and soul of that unit, and he's done for the season with a torn knee ligament; without him, NIU has given up 21, 45 and 35 points, and a combined 816 pass yards in those three games. They haven't generated much of a rush, they've been soft in the middle against the run, and the biggest news every week seems to be speculation about why former Notre Dame quarterback Demetrius Jones transferred to Cincinnati instead of NIU.

I know it's risky backing a team and a school that don't know how to win. But Temple really hasn't played that poorly this year, and if they can give DiMichele just a little more protection (he's been sacked 15 times), the Huskies' pass defense can be had. The last time Temple won a game outright was last year's homecoming game against Bowling Green. Heck, they don't have to win this one outright; they're home underdogs. But I give them a better-than-even chance to take their first victory of 2007, and their first-ever win as a MAC member. Take Temple (+4) at home over Northern Illinois.

by: Staci Richards - - Email Us

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