Temple vs Florida International Preview and Prediction: Gasparilla Bowl
Temple vs Florida International Preview
In what should be a high-scoring bowl game, the Temple Owls take on the Florida International Golden Panthers in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Temple won three of its last four games to reach bowl eligibility, with the lone loss in that span a 45-19 setback to unbeaten UCF. The Owls scored a combined 112 points in posting wins over Navy, at Cincinnati and at Tulsa.
Florida International scored 104 points in its last two games in routing Western Kentucky 41-17 and Massachusetts 63-45 to tie a program record for wins in a season.
Temple’s first-year head coach Geoff Collins had some bumpy first tests after taking over the program, but the Owls seemed to find an offensive identity that could work in the final weeks of the season.
Junior quarterback Frank Nutile finished the season on a high note and made the case to keep the starting job in 2018 with 11 touchdowns in the final five games of the season. Nutile’s late surge in the offense provided some stability for the offense and helped to open up the game a bit for the Owls, but the running game remains the key to the Owls offense. Ryquell Armstead and David Hood have split the carries for share of the carries to a balanced effect, and that should continue against the Panthers.
For the first time in school history, the Owls are going bowling for the third year in a row. The Panthers (8-4) are playing in their first bowl since 2011, when they lost to Marshall 20-10 in what was then the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl — also played in the same site as this matchup, Tropicana Field.
Both coaches are in their first year at their respective posts.
Lost in the attention given to Lane Kiffin turning FAU around is the job done by Butch Davis at FIU. Perhaps even more impressive than the job done by Kiffin this season, Davis returned to the sideline and quickly built an eight-win team with FIU.
“The kids just did a great job this year,” FIU’s Butch Davis said. “We have 19 seniors who just did an unbelievable job — the leadership, the way in which they played. I think it’s a football team that got better every single week.
“We started off with a tough game the first game of the season (a 61-17 loss at UCF) and they never let anything damage their courage and the consistency and the way in which they worked and approached every game.”
Davis, who also had head coaching stints at North Carolina and the Cleveland Browns in addition to his time at Miami, has a veteran at quarterback in senior Alex McGough, whom he calls “one of the best quarterbacks that I’ve been around at all levels of coaching.”
Collins knows what is at stake for his Temple seniors: “The big thing is we wanted to get that last win for the seniors and make sure they’ll be bowl eligible and to be the all-time winningest class in school history.”
This will be the first meeting between the two programs, but Davis was 6-0 against the Owls in his time at Miami. This, however, is a much different Temple team from the one that struggled during its Big East years.
“Their running backs are really, really good,” Davis said. “Defensively, the number of pressures and blitzes and tackles for loss and sacks, I mean they are really, really good at giving you negatives and bad plays. And they’re one of the best teams that we have played as far as punt return and kickoff return.
“They’ve actually scored touchdowns in both of those aspects. This is not one of those games — like I told the team — that if we just control just one phase then we’ll have a chance to win. We’ve got to play good in all three phases.”
According to CrownBet, the Owls are favored by a touchdown. Despite their recent surge in offense, I actually like the Panthers to cover those points and potentially win the game outright. Butch Davis has his team firing on all cylinders and coaching is a key factor in these college football bowl games. Which coach will prepare his kids enough to stay focused on the task at hand will end up victorious? I’ll take Butch.
Florida International 34 Temple 31
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