Dec 7, 2021 - Sports

College bowls put Tampa Bay in the limelight

Anthony Richardson #15 of the Florida Gators at a game in November.
Anthony Richardson #15 of the Florida Gators at a game in November. Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images

Get ready to roll out the welcome mat for football teams, marching bands, cheerleaders and fans from four universities this college bowl season as Tampa Bay hosts the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl and the Outback Bowl.

Up first: The Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on Dec. 23 is a Sunshine State showdown, with Florida taking on the University of Central Florida Knights to determine the state's best team — in a down year.

  • The Gators (6-6, 2-6 SEC) became bowl eligible by beating Florida State in the last game of the regular season, while UCF finished 8-4 in coach Gus Malzahn's first year.
  • This will be the third meeting between these teams and the sixth Tampa bowl game for Florida, now playing behind interim head coach Greg Knox.
  • Of note: Star wide receivers Jacob Copeland of Florida and Jaylon Robinson of UCF could sit out the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft.

The more high-profile matchup: At the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on New Year's Day, the Arkansas Razorbacks will face the Penn State Nittany Lions for the first time in program history.

  • The No. 21 Razorbacks finished 8-4 with impressive wins over Texas and LSU.
  • Yes, but: 7-5 Penn State is already favored on the gambling sites with betting lines up despite losing five of its last seven games.
  • The Nittany Lions are making their fourth Outback Bowl appearance.

Why it matters: Cha-ching. These bowl games put tourist-hungry Tampa Bay on center stage when it's snowing in much of the country, and they bring in big money.

  • Boosters say the Outback Bowl alone has generated more than $1.1 billion in economic impact for the region since it started as the Hall of Fame Bowl in 1986.

By the numbers: The Outback Bowl is the longest title sponsorship of any college bowl game in history at 26 years.

📬 Help the Razorbacks: We'd like to put together a list of things to do for our colleagues at Axios Northwest Arkansas to share with their readers. Think cool spots to eat or drink or see that aren't on TripAdvisor's radar.

  • If you could tell a few dozen Arkansans how to have a good time down here, what would you say? Email [email protected] let us know.
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