Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Temple (6-6) vs. Florida International (8-4)
Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, Tampa, Florida (ESPN)
Temple -7, O/U: 56
HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE
Temple: It took a while for Temple to establish its footing in its first season with Geoff Collins as head coach. The Owls started the year 3-5 before rallying down the stretch with wins in three of their final four regular season games with the lone loss coming at the hands of undefeated UCF. A big part of the change in fortune was inserting junior Frank Nutile into the lineup as the team’s starting quarterback. He started the team’s last five games and threw for 1,266 yards and 11 touchdowns over that span.
Florida International: Butch Davis, the former head coach at Miami and North Carolina, inherited a program that had gone a combined 17-43 over the past five seasons and quickly executed a turnaround that resulted in FIU’s first winning season since 2011. After a 6-2 start, the Panthers dropped two in a row in November before winning their final two regular season games to tie a program record with eight wins. In those final two wins, FIU put up a combined 104 points.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jacob Martin and Sharif Finch, DL, Temple: The senior duo of Martin (8.0) and Finch (7.5) have combined for more sacks (15.5) than five teams in the American Athletic Conference. On the year, Finch has 51 tackles and 14.5 tackles to go with his 7.5 sacks while Martin has registered 39 tackles and 11 tackles for loss. FIU also needs to account for Quincy Roche, a redshirt freshman with 27 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Alex McGough, QB, Florida International: McGough has been really steady all year. He won’t wow you statistically — he has only two 300-yard games this year — but he has consistently gotten the job done, throwing for 2,791 yards and 17 touchdowns while completing 65.3 percent of his passes. A four-year starter, McGough sure would like to end his collegiate career with a bowl win.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: For all of the success the Owls had under Matt Rhule, they didn’t win a bowl game during his four-year tenure, which featured back-to-back 10-win seasons. This year’s Temple senior class is the winningest in program history (32 wins). A win over FIU would be the only bowl win for that group. On the other side, there’s some intrigue seeing Davis back on the sideline for the first time since 2010, especially after he was fired by UNC with an NCAA cloud hanging over his head. It’s been sort of an untold story this season.
(And maybe there will be more lawn mower races)
WHAT’S ON THE LINE: Florida International can set a program record by winning its ninth game of the season. In doing so, a win would also be just the second bowl victory in program history, with its only other bowl win coming in the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (RIP) against Toledo. For Temple, a win would give the program some positive momentum to close out its first season with Collins as head coach and the program’s first bowl win since 2011.
Nick: Temple 27, Florida International 20
Sam: Temple 33, Florida International 28
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