By prestige, a season opener at Notre Dame will always highlight the schedule for a program such as Temple. By quality of opponent, however, the game tonight at American Athletic Conference rival South Florida (7:30 on ESPN) was always of more significance for the Owls.

The Bulls entered the preseason in the Top 25, while Notre Dame was unranked.

The race for the one automatic bid into a New Year's Six bowl is more perilous than the one for the four bids into the College Football Playoff. One slip-up, which better not be in the conference championship game, is generally all a "Group of Five" team can afford to stay in the running for the NY6.

Temple and USF are in the East Division, so this game is huge in the race to the AAC championship game. Still, the AAC champion will be in a popularity contest with the other Group of Five champs for the reserved major-bowl bid. The highest-ranked G5 champion as determined by the selection committee gets it.

South Florida, which is ranked 20th,  does not want the drop in the rankings that a home loss to Temple (2-1) would cause – even if the Owls are the defending champions.

San Diego State of the Western Athletic Conference is ranked 21st and has wins over Arizona State and Stanford of the Pac-12.

Rams defensive tackle Dominique Easley, top, and defensive tackle Cam Thomas (92) tackle 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) during a game last September.
Rams defensive tackle Dominique Easley, top, and defensive tackle Cam Thomas (92) tackle 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) during a game last September.

Rams against 49ers back to how it should be – mostly

After the Los Angeles Rams relocated to St. Louis in 1995, San Francisco 49ers tailback Roger Craig said "the Rams will always be the 49ers' biggest rival. …  If the Rams played their home games on Mars, it would still be a rivalry."

However, with the Rams out of California, a rivalry that in 2008 was named by Sports Illustrated as the eighth greatest in NFL history lost something.

Overall, the Rams and 49ers franchises have played twice a season since San Francisco joined the NFL in 1950, but tonight at 8:25 on the NFL Network will be the first time the teams will meet as representatives of the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco in 22 seasons.

Of course, as a reminder that you can never go all the way back home again, the game will be at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. – the 49ers' new home — 40 miles from San Francisco.

The Sixers’ Joel Embiid walks off the court injured while playing against the Raptors in December.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
The Sixers’ Joel Embiid walks off the court injured while playing against the Raptors in December.

What I’m reading

Bryan Colangelo brought himself a lot of unnecessary trouble last year by trying to double-talk about the health of Joel Embiid. Columnist Mike Sielski gives a take that hints that Colangelo is walking down the same path.

Columnist Marcus Hayes looks at the surplus the Phillies say they have in position players and wonders why you can't put together a solid, complete roster instead of trading players.

Hall of Famer and Sixers legend Charles Barkley has never been shy in his disdain for the attitudes of today's players. relates how Barkley complained that "poor babies can't play back-to-backs."

The NBA is on the verge of implementing draft reforms that would decrease the incentive for teams to tank seasons. Tom Ziller at SB Nation has a different idea, and it doesn't involve changing the lottery.

This morning, Andre Ward woke up as the reigning WBA, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight champion. By 10 a.m., he had announced his decision to retire. tells what happened.


The riff

Sixers president/general manager Bryan Colangelo needs to shut up about trading backup center Jahlil Okafor unless he actually has a deal to announce.

Another training camp is about to begin, so of course, Colangelo is again talking about the need to trade the 2015 draft's third overall pick while simultaneously conceding there are no deals that the Sixers think they can get value for.

It's gotten boring and serves no constructive purpose.

Last season, Colangelo's trade whispering started a ridiculous process in which Sixers coach Brett Brown tried to do everything with Okafor but figure out how to make him an effective player for the team. The helter-skelter mixing of Okafor's minutes plus lingering injuries drove his value into the bottom of a pit that no team is stupid enough to dig in.

It's fine if the Sixers have given up on Okafor, but accept the fact that he is yours until you raise his value enough to trade him. In the meantime, stop telling the kid you want him gone and emphasize to him that he has the most talented teammates around him since his one season at Duke.

If Brown says he's going to coach Okafor as if he's a Sixer, then Colangelo should support him as if he's a Sixer and not talk about him as trade bait.

Perhaps playing with better players and a coach who wants him will finally bring out the best in Okafor.

That would be a more positive message from the organization – at least until it actually finds a trade.

Tonight’s schedule


Indians at Angels, 4 p.m. (MLB Network)
Twins at Tigers, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Cubs at Brewers, 8 p.m. (MLB Network)

Rams at 49ers, 8:20 p.m. (NFL Network)

Preseason Hockey
Flyers at Bruins, 7 p.m. (WPEN-FM 97.5)
Red Wings at Blackhawks (joined in progress), 9:30 p.m. (NHL Network)

College Football
Temple at South Florida, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
South Carolina State at North Carolina Central, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)