Lost in all the excitement around the Philadelphia Eagles this season is the fact that the Temple Owls and first-year coach Geoff Collins are going bowling this holiday season. Or maybe it’s that Temple is going to a bowl called the Gasparilla Bowl.
There are 41 bowl games in the 2017-18 postseason, which means 82 college football teams have a chance to play an extra game in a possibly exotic location for a trophy that coaches have convinced their players means as much as the national championship. This is how college football works. (Also the players don’t get paid. But hey! A free trip to Florida!)
Bowl games not affiliated with the playoff system mean absolutely nothing, but there are still some marquee match-ups fans of the college game will stop at nothing to watch. Ohio State and USC playing in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29 is as must-watch as any non playoff game this season. Notre Dame playing LSU in the Citrus Bowl? Auburn and undefeated UCF in the Peach Bowl? Those are two New Year’s Day games worth keeping an eye on before the playoffs start, for sure. Wisconsin and Miami at the Orange Bowl and Penn State taking on Washington in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30? Two solid games as well.
But with nearly three-and-a-half dozen bowl games, they can’t all be winners. Which is where Temple comes in.
The 6-6 Owls saved their bowl season with a victory over Tulsa in the regular season finale, to get to .500 and qualify for a bowl game for the third-straight season. This is just the seventh time in school history the Owls have played in a postseason bowl game and the first time they’ve gone to a bowl in three-straight seasons. In 2014 Temple also finished 6-6 but did not play in a postseason bowl game, before back-to-back 10-4 seasons that ended in bowl losses under Matt Rhule in 2015 and 2016.
So, sure, Temple’s not in the college football playoff and no, they’re not going up against Auburn in the Peach Bowl like American Athletic Conference foe UCF will be doing on Jan. 1. But for a city school from North Broad without a stadium (sorry for the jab), constantly playing in the shadow of the pro team in town, the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl will do just fine.
And yes, that’s the name of the bowl.
About the game
Bowl season begins Saturday, Dec. 16 and runs through Jan. 8 for the national championship game. There are five games on the 16th, then one Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of that week, so as to avoid the NFL slate of games on Sunday and Monday.
But what about Thursday NFL games, you ask? There isn’t a Thursday game that week, as the NFL puts two games on Saturday, Dec. 23 and a full slate the next day, with the Eagles playing Monday, Christmas night, after the Steelers and Texans.
The Owls have Thursday night all to themselves!
The game is at 8 p.m. at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. That’s the same dump the Tampa Bay Rays play in. It’s being televised on ESPN.
About the opponent
Florida International finished the season 8-4 in second place in the East division of Conference USA. Their quarterback, Alex McGough, threw for 2,791 yards and 17 touchdowns with eight interceptions and they had three runners with more than 400 yards rushing and three with five or more rushing touchdowns. They are coached by former Miami Hurricanes, Cleveland Browns and UNC Tar Heels head coach Butch Davis.
He worked for ESPN for a stint before going back to coaching at FIU and, wow, that’s depressing. Let’s get back to making fun of the bowl game’s name!
What in the hell is a Bad Boy Mower and/or a Gasparilla?
This game used to be the St. Petersburg Bowl and its legacy goes all the way back to 2008. It is now called the Gasparilla Bowl, because when your region has a word like Gasparilla associated with it, why not use it as a bowl game name?
Gasparilla refers to the famed pirate Jose Gaspar, who according to legend, had given himself the nickname Gasparilla while robbing merchant ships off the Gulf Coast of Florida in the 1800s. Eventually his crew of pirates tried to seize the wrong ship, attempting to overtake a United States Navy warship in disguise. It didn’t end well for ol’ Gasparilla.
Nowadays, Gasparilla refers mostly to a music festival in Tampa during the second week of March. Per the Gasparilla Bowl website, last year’s festival featured “an exciting mix of over 40 bands across 5 stages. Past performers have included Cage the Elephant, Erykah Badu, Modest Mouse and the Flaming Lips playing alongside Tampa Bay’s best bands.”
There’s also a film festival and a distance race all in the name of a pirate.
Fun fact when going to the bowl game’s website, your icon changes into a lawnmower. Yes, the sponsor for the bowl is Bad Boy Mowers. Billed as a “company who knows their customers,” I’m sure the Arkansas-based grass cuttery is just thrilled Temple is in the game this year. Because if there’s one thing people in Philly need this holiday season it’s a giant orange riding mower with 360-degree turning radios and an angry bulldog logo. Financing is available!