Once again, here are the 2020 AAC standings.
And here are the APR standings with conference rank in offensive touchdowns, touchdowns allowed, and APR in parentheses. This includes conference games only with the championship game excluded. Since teams played a varied number of games (everyone played at least six but only four played a full eight game schedule), the rankings are on a per game basis, not raw totals.
Finally, AAC teams are sorted by the difference between their actual number of wins and their expected number of wins according to APR.
I use a game and a half as a line of demarcation to determine whether or not a team significantly over or under-performed relative to their APR. Using that standard, Memphis was the lone team to significantly exceed their expected record (although Tulane and South Florida just missed meeting the threshold for underperforming). The Tigers won five of their eight conference games in 2020, but four of those wins came by a total of eight points. Meanwhile, two of their three conference losses came by at least two touchdowns.
Is Temple In Trouble?
Is Temple In Trouble?
Many college football fans may have forgotten how bad the Temple Owls were. After winning ten games and the prestigious Garden State Bowl in 1979, the Owls finished with a winning record just three times prior to the inauguration of Barack Obama (coincidence or Deep State conspiracy?). In that span, they lost at least ten games eight times, were politely asked to leave the Big East, and were generally one of the worst programs in FBS. All that changed in 2006 when Al Golden was hired. It took him a few years to right the ship, as the Owls went just 1-11 in his first season, but they won four games in his second, followed by five in his third, before winning seventeen over his final two seasons. That success helped him land the Miami job and the foundation he built helped Temple become a launching pads of sorts. The next three coaches to follow Golden in Philadelphia all enjoyed some modicum of success and used the Owls as a springboard to a Power Five job (Steve Addazio, Matt Rhule, and Geoff Collins). Current Temple coach Rod Carey seemed to be an ideal candidate to follow suit. Carey spent six seasons at Northern Illinois, leading the Huskies to four conference championship game appearances and a pair of MAC titles. And his first season in charge of the Owls was a solid success. Temple won eight games and defeated two Power Five opponents. The bowl game was disappointing, but Temple appeared to be in the same position that they had been in for the better part of a decade - an upper tier Group of Five program. Then 2020 happened.
Like every other team playing college football in 2020, the Owls dealt with cancelations and positive tests. Temple did not play their first game until October 10th, and while they were a disappointing 1-2 heading into a Halloween showdown at Tulane, they were at least competitive in each of their first three games. That was not the case over the final month of the season. Starting with Tulane, the Owls lost each of their final four games by at least 24 points. They were outscored 151-42 in that span and scored just four offensive touchdowns in those four games. Injuries and Covid-19 protocols account for some of that poor performance as the Owls had five different quarterbacks throw a pass in 2020. Even with the difficult circumstances, there is no doubt that for the first time in a long time, Temple was a bad team in 2020. The Owls lost four games by at least twenty points in 2020, giving Carey seven such defeats in his two seasons at the helm. That is already more than either of the three gentlemen who preceded him accumulated.
Carey has already put up seven blowout losses in two seasons after his predecessors combined for thirteen such losses in eight. But not all blowout losses are created equal. Coaches at Group of Five programs don't have the resources or personnel of Power Five teams, so we shouldn't hold it against them if they are blown out by stronger programs. To account for this, lets adjust the data to only account for blowout losses to other Group of Five programs. How does Carey look once we make this adjustment?
Not any better. Temple played a conference only season in 2020, so all of their blowout losses came to other Group of Five programs. All together, Carey has six blowout losses to Group of Five programs whereas his three predecessors combined for seven in eight seasons. So, circling back around to the question I posed earlier: Is Temple in trouble? Is 2020 a sign of things to come or was it a one-off bad season made worse by a global pandemic? Obviously, no one can know for sure, and we'll learn a lot more in the 2021 season, but were I a Temple fan, I would be a little worried. Not only were the Owls unquestionably bad in 2020, they were not quite as good as their record in 2019. Take a look at last year's APR post on the AAC. The Owls won five conference games, but actually allowed more touchdowns than they scored. In addition, look no further than the program Carey piloted before landing the Temple job. Northern Illinois, the dominant MAC program for a decade has finished with a losing record for two straight years and actually went winless in 2020! Some of that could be the man the Huskies tabbed to replace Carey, a former Northern Illinois running back whose most recent job was coaching NFL running backs, is not very good, but it could also be that Carey left the program in a bad state. I'll refrain from making any bold proclamations, but it wouldn't shock me if Temple is bad in 2021 and has a new coach in 2022.