They're a touchdown underdog. But they weren't favored against South Florida here or Connecticut on the road, either. After this, they go to No. 16 Louisville (7-0, 2-0). Then they host Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0), which was ranked before last week's six-point loss at Toledo, whose lone blemish was in the opener at Arizona in overtime.
The Owls will be favored at Army (1-6) on Nov. 17, before finishing in South Philly with Syracuse (3-4, 2-1).
The goal is to get to a bowl, which will take three more victories. Being 4-3 with Louisville on the horizon sure seems to beat the alternative, especially when you're playing a Panthers team that lost to FCS Youngstown State (4-3) and beat two 1-6 teams, Buffalo and FCS Gardner-Webb.
"We can't afford to treat anything like it's a must-win," Owls coach Steve Addazio said Tuesday. "We're too young to handle that. We can't over- or undervalue it. We've just got to go out there and play the best game we can. That's kind of my mind-set.
"I think sometimes you just don't know [how youngsters will respond]. I know we had a great practice. That doesn't mean you're consistency's going to be any better [Saturday]. We did more good things than bad [last week]. It didn't matter in the end.
"When you get to this part of the season, it's a grind. That concerns me. What we're going through will . . . make us become a veteran team quicker. We're learning how to handle some stuff we have to weather. You look at it for what it is. We have to go get a win. There's some tremendous stuff out there to be had."
For the seniors, it's their last chance. They've been to bowls two of the last 3 years, winning one last December. There weren't many expectations this season, the Owls' return to the Big East. At some point nobody remembers, or cares, about those projections. Ask Oregon State. Or maybe South Florida.
There's obviously a lot to play for, regardless of the opponent.
"We definitely let one get away," said gutty running back Matt Brown, whose injured left ankle limited him only to kick returns against the Scarlet Knights and whose status for this one is still up in the air. "We weren't just winning, we were beating them. But we lost. There's nothing we can do to change that. We have to do everything we can to get our eyes moving forward, make sure it doesn't happen the next time.
"You can't take one game more seriously than the others. They're all just as important. This week, we've got to beat this team.
"When you win, everything is just different. Everybody's got a smile on their face. When you lose, you feel like you've got to build back up from the bottom."
Or, in this case, even .500.
"It might surprise some people on the outside, but we know what we're capable of doing," said kicker-punter Brandon McManus, who is in the top 20 among punters in average distance. "When you lose one, you never get that back. We only have five more opportunities. The young guys might not see it that way. But we know. It's something we have to drive into their heads.
"The next one always has the most meaning."
It's basic math.
Contact Mike Kern at firstname.lastname@example.org.