FIU’s football players won’t get to rocket down that Atlantis slide in the Bahamas this year.
One potential FIU postseason landing spot has already been filled as the Bahama Bowl has selected UAB and Ohio.
And, if Sports Illustrated is correct, FIU’s reward for a seven-win season — or eight if the Panthers can defeat Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon in the regular-season finale — will be a 90-minute trip to Boca Raton.
The Boca Bowl is set for Dec. 19, and SI projects that 7-4 FIU, which played and lost at FAU Stadium a couple of weeks ago, will play SMU there.
FIU’s league, Conference USA, has 10 bowl-eligible teams, which is the most in college football. But they have for-sure tie-ins with only seven bowls so far. That means three C-USA teams might get left out unless something elsewhere becomes available.
But there is hope for the league.
“We’ve been in discussions with a number of other bowls,” said Russ Anderson, C-USA assistant commission for football operations.
Anderson also said that bowls have traded conference tie-ins with each other in the past and could do so again if it makes sense due to geography and/or a more enticing matchup.
FIU has made just two bowl games in its history, winning the Little Caesars Pizza game in 2010 over Toledo and losing the 2011 Beef O’Brady matchup to Marshall, both under then-coach Mario Cristobal.
Beyond the Boca Bowl, here are some potential 2017 landing spots for FIU:
▪ The New Orleans Bowl, played on Dec. 16 at the 73,000-seat Superdome, is a much more exotic possibility for FIU, even though its small fan base would surely rattle around in that huge stadium.
▪ The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, played at 43,000-seat Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, is the new name for what used to be the Beef O’Brady game.
▪ The New Mexico Bowl will be played on Dec. 16 in Albuquerque’s 39,000-seat University Stadium.
▪ The Armed Forces Bowl, played on Dec. 23 at 44,000-seat Carter Stadium in Fort Worth Texas, will match Army against a C-USA team.
▪ The Frisco Bowl, played at 20,000-seat Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, will match an American Athletic Conference team against a school from either C-USA, the Mountain West or the Mid-American.
So is FIU worthy of being in a bowl?
“Absolutely,” Davis said. “Last week’s win over Western Kentucky was a huge positive for us (a seventh victory) because it separated us from a bunch of teams that had six wins.
“I think seven wins helps, and [Saturday] we’ll try to win eight.”
LAST HOME GAME
FIU senior linebacker Treyvon Williams remembers his first collegiate play.
The date was Aug. 31, 2013, at Maryland. FIU’s starting middle linebacker’s helmet had come off, and Williams was called upon to fill in for one play.
“It was fourth and two, and they were going for it,” Williams said of a game Maryland won 43-10. “You could just see me on film — I was stepping in closer and closer. And as the ball hiked, I shot in the backfield and made the tackle.”
FIU senior safety Niko Gonzalez remembers his first collegiate play, too, even though it didn’t go nearly as well. It happened on September 14, 2014, at home against Louisville.
The Cardinals ran a bubble screen to a wide receiver, and an offensive lineman took out Gonzalez on the play.
“Boy, did I get chopped,” Gonzalez said. “It was ‘welcome to college football’ for me.”
While those memories of the starts of their careers are still vivid for Williams and Gonzalez, Saturday’s home non-conference game against Massachusetts (4-7) is at the other end of the spectrum.
On Saturday, Williams, Gonzalez and 17 more FIU seniors will try to make more memories as they play the final home game of their careers.
A win over Massachusetts would give allow FIU to improve to 8-4, tying the program record for most wins in a season.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Massachusetts has won four of its past five games. The Minutemen have also defeated the Panthers in each of the past two years — 21-13 at UMass in 2016 and 24-14 at FIU in 2015.
Davis praised the Minutemen, who seemingly are unafraid to play anyone. UMass this year lost at Power Five teams Tennessee and Mississippi State by just four and 11 points, respectively.
UMass also played 8-4 Miami of Ohio, losing 58-50; and Temple, which was another eight-point loss. Among the Minutemen’s wins were a 30-27 double-overtime thriller over 7-4 Appalachian State; and a 16-10 victory over Brigham Young.
▪ Offensive lineman Jordan Budwig is one of FIU’s 19 seniors. But given that he missed two years due to injury, he will petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility.