Temple is 7-11-1 against current SEC members, though four of the wins didn't come against those teams when they were in the SEC. The last time the Owls beat a team that was actually part of the SEC was 1938 (at Florida) in Pop Warner's final game as their coach, 4 years after taking them to the inaugural Sugar Bowl.
Anyway, the Owls lost way too many close games in 2013, often under seriously frustrating circumstances. Of course, that's what teams that aren't good enough tend to do. These Owls, who are still very young, now have to learn how to win - in an American Conference that no longer has Louisville or Rutgers, but did add Tulsa, Tulane and East Carolina. Next week, they host Navy, which also went 9-4 last season. It's not just going to happen, regardless of how thin the line appears.
"Like we told our kids, look at Central Florida," Rhule said. "They won [seven] games by seven points or less. Then they beat Baylor in the [Fiesta] bowl. It's not like we were losing by 40. You might be talking about a difference of, like, seven points a game. That's how we have to look at it."
The Owls were beating Central Florida late at Lincoln Financial Field in early November before losing by three at the buzzer. Just saying.
Temple, which was picked to finish eighth in what has become an 11-team conference, will go to Nashville as a two-touchdown underdog. Last year, it was picked to come in last.
Last August, Notre Dame was favored by four TDs. The final was 28-6. It was 14-0 early and 21-6 at the half. The Owls gave up three long scoring passes. They missed two field goals (from 32 yards and 43) and an extra point.
"If we learned one thing [at Notre Dame], it's that the biggest issue is focusing on us," Rhule said. "There was nervouness. Once our kids settled down, we figured out how to hang with all those great players. It's a matter of, are you going to fold or attack? I didn't come here to not be aggressive.
"[Notre Dame] was a good experience for us. There's a lot of things you have to deal with, when you come out of that tunnel and see that crowd. It's OK to be nervous. But you have to go play a game. What else can you do? You can't be afraid of the moment. I think it was a a great thing for us last season, and I think it's going to be a great thing for us this season. We're trying to challenge our guys. I think we're ready to go out there and take our best swing."
Understandably, a bunch of questions abound. Most of them don't figure to get answered in the first week. The kicking situation, which was as unacceptable as it gets, remains unsettled. The secondary, which was addressed in recruiting, has to come up with more than three interceptions. Which, by the way, matched the number of successful field goals. The offensive front could be a work in progress. More playmakers must surround quarterback P.J. Walker, who showed flashes as one of a handful of freshmen quarterbacks to make half his team's starts.
"He has to learn that you can't win a game with one play, but you can lose a game with one [mistake]," Rhule noted.
When you've gone 6-17 the past two seasons, at least some degree of uncertainty is to be expected. Particularly at this point in the journey. From within, and, in this case, from the opposition, as well.
"We've been watching a lot of Stanford film," Rhule said. "We've probably had nine, 10, 11 tight ends on the field [in practice]. They have four offensive line starters back. They're big. We came out of last year trying to be lighter, faster, more athletic, to deal with the pass rush because of [the way] our conference [plays]. Now we're playing one of those power teams. We'll see whether our lines can hang in there.
"The heat might be a factor. A lot of guys are going to play. I have no idea what their new [sophomore] quarterback [Patton Robinette] can do . . . We're preparing for all of it."
Because really, what else can you do? Every ride has to get rolling somewhere.
For those who really like to plan ahead, first up next Sept. 5 is tenatively scheduled to be Penn State here for the first time since 2011. Another layup.
On Twitter: @mikekerndn