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The Temple Owls are happy to have found a league that they can call home in the Mid-American Conference after a year as an independent that saw them play eight games on the road. The 2005 campaign was a disaster for the Owls, as they struggled to an 0-11 record while losing by an average score of 45-9. Things were so bad that their head coach of nine years, Bobby Wallace, retired and the Owls were kicked out of the Big East Conference for poor attendance. In came Al Golden, a Joe Paterno pupil, as the new head coach with only six returning starters and had to play nine teams that ended up bowl eligible by the end of the season. Golden turned to new players and played 21 true freshmen, which was the most in the NCAA. As a result the Owls ware in position to improve on their 1-11 record in 2006.

Temple will have an easier schedule now that the school joined the MAC. Golden will have a mature Adam DiMichelle to lead an offense that returns eight starters. Adam was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school, and did not play football for a few years. DiMichelle led the team with 1,518 passing yards, while tossing 10 touchdowns as a sophomore. Adam played his best against the six MAC teams that he faced last season, completing 65 percent of his passes while tossing nine touchdowns.

Sophomore Jason Harper returns as the leading rusher after starting two games in rookie year. Incoming JC transfer Marcellous Grigsby should push Harper for playing time. Junior wide receiver Travis Shelton, the cousin of the Chicago Bears Devon Hester, is the best player for the Owls. Shelton, who has runs a 4.24 in the 40, was suspended for the last six games last season but not before he averaged a NCAA leading 196.7 all purpose yards per game. Golden has emphasized hitting the weight room since he arrived in Philadelphia, and will have a good-sized line that returns three starters. The offense should be able to improve on last years 10.9 points per game, especially if Shelton plays a full season.

The defense will return six starters on defense, and fifteen players that started at one point or the other last year. As a unit, the Owls will switch from a 3-4 to 4-3 in order to improve a run defense that gave up 243 yards per game. Only two starters will be gone from last year’s defensive line. Three starters are gone from last year’s linebacker unit, and three players were moved to DE in the new 4-3 scheme. However, three transfers will actually make this unit stronger than last season. Lamar McPherson transferred from Syracuse, Wallace Bates came cross-country from Oregon State and Tommy Weatherspoon moved up from the junior college ranks. The secondary will be the strongest unit on the defense, as they return six of the top eight players from last season. Five defensive backs started in the secondary at some time during the season. WR Shelton will be a scoring threat on special teams.

I will go out on a limb and say that Temple will be an improved team with some betting value once the season rolls around. The Owls have gained valuable experience playing a tough schedule over the last two years. An easier schedule, only two BCS conference teams, and two home games to start the season will give these young but wiser Owls some much needed confidence.

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