The Temple Owls (6-6) and Florida International Golden Panthers (8-4) will play in the Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida. Kickoff will take place this Thursday from Tropicana Field at 8:00 EST in what is only a four-hour trip up the road for FIU. The game can be seen on ESPN.
Despite gaining bowl eligibility, there’s a lot to be concerned about with choosing either of these teams.
Temple was inept on offense for the better part of the season, and still ranks 93rd in points-per-game. FIU likewise has drawbacks despite its 8-4 record, seeing as they allowed an average score that exceeded its own. This includes losing to a very mediocre Middle Tennessee State by 20 and being defeated by 5-7 Old Dominion.
But the Owls have 141 points in their last four games, three of which were wins (only a loss to undefeated UCF). The Golden Panthers have 104 of their own in only the past two games, contests they won by a combined 41 points.
FIU’s QB Alex McGough’s 13-2 TD-INT ratio since October 28th has been a big boost for the Golden Panthers. The quarterback was effective on the ground (108 yards on 11 carries) and through the air (20 for 25, three TDs) in his last game.
Temple will look to shut him down with a defense that allowed only 55 pass yards and caused three turnovers in their previous contest at Tulsa. They come in as seven-point favorites.
Both these teams have finally found an offensive identity. But Temple has seemed to find its groove more than FIU, and the game being played in Florida shouldn’t be much of an advantage for the Golden Panthers.
Temple did struggle against teams with more speed, and a Florida team will naturally have plenty of it. But this isn’t USF, UCF, or even Houston, teams Temple lost against. This is an FIU team without their clear No. 1 WR, Thomas Owens, who had 887 yards receiving this season. No other player on the team has even 300 yards receiving.
Temple did have to beat lowly Tulsa to even make a bowl game, and FIU’s win over Western Kentucky two games ago without Owens was big. But they’ve beaten very few teams as hot as Temple is now.
Temple has been without starting QB Logan Marchi, who won’t play in the bowl game either. But Frank Nutile has proved to be a worthy replacement, and FIU has had clear struggles in the secondary in recent weeks.
Temple has also found another sparkplug in the last three games with RB David Hood. With the first increased workload of his college career, Hood has 4.8 YPC and 5.7 in the last three games.
McGough has enough talent to make things interesting, especially if he breaks loose on the ground. But he’s only had one big game running, and that was against lowly UMASS. With the way Temple is playing right now against the pass, there may not be many options for this offense.
Temple will be challenged by a decent run game, but the Owls have enough power-five talent to keep FIU’s RBs at bay and win by double-digits.