Here’s guessing that unless you are familiar with the Tampa Bay area that you have no idea why the local bowl game there is called the Gasparilla Bowl for the first time in 2017. That name a nod to the legend of Jose Gaspar, a mythical pirate who apparently operated in the Tampa Bay area many years ago and who is the inspiration for Tampa’s Gasparilla Pirate Festival, which is like the city’s Mardi Gras. The Gasparilla Bowl features Temple against Florida International, with the Owls as college football odds favorites.
2017 Gasparilla Bowl Betting Preview: Temple vs. Florida International
— Gasparilla Bowl (@GasparillaBowl) December 18, 2017
When: Thursday, 8 PM ET
Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Radio: (Temple) / (Florida International)
Opening Gasparilla Bowl Lines: Temple -7 (56)
This bowl has had a few names since its debut in 2008 and is held at Tropicana Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays and maybe the worst stadium in the country in all honesty. A few current NFL players have won MVP honors of this bowl game: Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu in 2009, UCF’s Blake Bortles in 2012 and NC State’s Jacoby Brissett in 2014.
Last year, Mississippi State of the SEC beat Miami of Ohio of the MAC in the game, 17-16. Central Florida has made the most appearances in this bowl with three – UCF is only about a 90-minute drive from the stadium. It’s the first trip to this bowl for Temple but not FIU.
Why Bet on Temple?
This is Temple’s third straight bowl game and the seventh in school history. Temple has been bowl eligible for four consecutive seasons and seven times in the past nine years. Temple has not won a bowl since beating Wyoming in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl.
The Owls (6-6) won three of their final four games, including a season-ending 43-22 road win over Tulsa to get bowl eligible. First-year head coach Geoff Collins returns to familiar territory in Florida. Collins was the defensive coordinator at Florida in 2016. He served as FIU’s defensive coordinator in 2010 and was also a defensive coach for UCF in 2009 when the Knights played Rutgers in the 2009 bowl game in St. Petersburg. When Collins started the Temple job he did not expect to have the 114th least experienced squad in the FBS, nor did he expect to start 42 different players.
How is the Offense Looking Like?
The Temple offense improved throughout the year. QB Frank Nutile didn’t get a real shot at the starting job until late October, but his arrival completely transformed the Temple offense. Aside from struggles against UCF, he was virtually unstoppable down the stretch. The offense increased its total yard output more than 150.0 yards per game (288.8/437.0) and scoring by greater than 10 points per game (17.0/28.8) from the first four games to the final eight.
First-year offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude veered from the two-back sets to highlight a trio of wide receivers and open up the scheme. Seniors Adonis Jennings (39-691-7TDs) and Keith Kirkwood (39-575-7TDs), along with sophomore Isaiah Wright (41-595-3TDs), gave the unit the spark it needed.
Defensively, the Owls are led by junior safety Delvon Randall, a first-team All-AAC member. Randall ranked second in the conference with a team-high four interceptions. He was also among the conference leaders in tackles with 76, good for second on the Owls while his 55 solo stops paced the team.
Why Bet on Florida International?
Florida International is playing in a bowl for just the third time ever. The Panthers’ only win came over Toledo in the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Coach Butch Davis totally turned around FIU this season (8-4) as it has already tied the 2011 team for the most wins in an FIU season. Ironically that year also resulted in a bowl trip to St. Petersburg. The Panthers, then in the Sun Belt Conference and led by future NFL star T.Y. Hilton, were upended by Marshall 20-10.
The 2017 Panthers have a unique brother-to-brother connection, which starts with redshirt freshman center Shane McGough, and it ends a split second later with his pass back to senior quarterback Alex McGough. It’s a homecoming for those two as both played at Tampa Gaither High. Shane didn’t become an FIU starter until recently. Starting center Neal Mars suffered a season-ending knee injury against Western Kentucky on Nov. 24.
What About McGough?
Alex McGough has broken FIU single-season passing records for completion percentage, passing yards and passing efficiency. McGough’s 65.3 completion percentage, which is 14th in the NCAA, topped the FIU record of 64 percent that McGough set in 2015. The 2,791 passing yards by McGough this season broke the FIU mark of 2,722 passing yards that he also set in 2015. And McGough’s passing efficiency rating of 142.8 broke a 15-year old FIU record held by the Panthers first quarterback Jamie Burke, who had a 141.5 passing efficiency in FIU’s 2002 inaugural season.
If McGough throws for 154 yards and completes 16 passes against Temple in the Gasparilla Bowl, then he will break the FIU career records for completions (820 by Josh Padrick) and passing yards (9,237 by Padrick). FIU led the NCAA in red zone offense this season scoring 39 times out of 40 trips from the opponent’s 20-yard line and in. The 2015 Panthers held the program red zone touchdowns record, getting six points 67 percent of the time. This year the Panthers scored touchdowns 77 percent of the time from the opponent’s 20 and in. The Panthers have just one turnover in the red zone – a fumble against UTSA.
Latest Gasparilla Bowl Betting Trends
- Temple is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games
- Temple is 15-8 SU in its last 23 games
- The total has gone OVER in 5 of Temple’s last 5 games
- Florida International is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games
- Florida International is 8-3 SU in its last 11 games
- The total has gone OVER in 5 of Florida International’s last 6 games
Expert Prediction & Pick for the 2017 Gasparilla Bowl
Temple and FIU had two common opponents this season. Both lost to UCF. Both beat Massachusetts. Buy this spread up to 7.5 and take FIU.