Both teams might still be fighting the urge to look back and wonder what this season could have been and where else they could have ended.
But Temple's and Toledo’s loss is a college football fan’s gain, with two teams that were in the mix for a New Year’s Six appearance instead hooking up for one of the best under-the-radar matchups of the postseason.
The Marmot Boca Raton Bowl surely isn’t complaining about its fortunes, landing the Owls and Rockets for what should be a competitive, entertaining affair thanks to the success they both enjoyed this season, save for a couple of games that slipped away. And that leaves plenty of reasons to watch them Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), starting with these three:
1. Light the coaching fuse: There was a chance that Toledo and Temple could have had even more in common when they took the field in Florida thanks to their sought-after coaches, but only one of them actually wound up changing addresses after the season. Matt Rhule is still around to lead the Owls, and he’ll provide the first test for Jason Candle as he takes over Toledo in place of Matt Campbell, who cashed in on his success by accepting the top job at Iowa State.
Rhule still figures to be a hot commodity down the road and surely will wind up in a Power 5 program at some point, considering the remarkable job he has done with Temple. But Candle will be the guy in the spotlight, as the former offensive coordinator looks to get started on the right foot and build momentum to keep the Rockets near the top of the Mid-American Conference.
2. Serving up Justice: Clearly the Rockets aren’t lacking in self-confidence after nicknaming their backfield after superheroes. In dubbing themselves the Justice League, tailbacks Kareem Hunt, Terry Swanson and Damion Jones-Moore both set a high bar for and lived up to the expectations, sharing the load for Toledo on the ground. Hunt has led the way in terms of carries, yardage and touchdowns, but the ability to roll through rushers keeps everybody fresh, happy -- and most important, productive. But in keeping with the comic-book theme, the Justice League will be taking on a capable group of Defenders to close the season, and with a Temple unit that ranked among the nation’s top 20 in total defense, this has all the makings of an entertaining showdown.
3. Curtain call for Matakevich: Sorting through all the awards he has won, the eye-popping statistics piled up and the streaks that Tyler Matakevich has going would simply take too long. The bottom line is that a truly special linebacker is making his final appearance on a college football field, and the Temple star is obviously going to be looking to end his career on a high note. There won’t be a shortage of opportunities for him to add to his 126 tackles, and the consensus first-team All-American is always worth watching, no matter the opponent.