FOOTBALL

Gators football: 5 facts you should know about Las Vegas Bowl between Florida-Oregon State

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun

The Gators close the 2022 season Saturday against No. 16 Oregon State at the Las Vegas Bowl (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Forget X's and O's. Here is the real good stuff all UF football fans - and anyone interested in this game - need to know.

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It's the longest bowl trip for Gators since Taylor Swift was born

Florida travels 2,196 miles for its matchup with Oregon on Saturday. The last time the Gators made a trip that far for a bowl was in 1989, when Florida went 2,392 miles to Anaheim, Calif. to face Washington in the Freedom Bowl. Future NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith was held to 17 yards on 17 carries in his final game as a Gator as the Huskies routed Florida 34-7.

Taylor Swift poses for photos at the NSAI Awards at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

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Fun fact: While the team flew back to Gainesville - where Steve Spurrier would be introduced as the Gators' new football coach, Emmitt remained in California. A group of sports writers ran into him in the lobby the day after the game and he shrugged off staying behind. It wasn't long before Smith, who had just completed his junior season, declared for the NFL Draft.

Elvis is in the building

A trip to Las Vegas wouldn't be complete without an Elvis impersonator or two. Florida defensive lineman Tyreak Sapp showed off some of his dance moves with one of the faux Elvis's when the Gators arrived in town in Tuesday.

If Elvis isn't entertaining enough for you, the ESPN crew calling the game will include the ebullient Pat McAfee (no word on if he's donning an Elvis outfit for the game), Dave Pasch, Kirk Herbstreit and Florida's own Laura Rutledge handling the sideline reporting.

Florida is the first SEC team to play in this bowl in 22 years

The last time a Southeastern Conference team ventured out west to play in the Las Vegas Bowl was 2000, when Arkansas faced UNLV. It didn't end well for the Razorbacks. UNLV quarterback Jason Thomas threw three TD passes, lifting the Running Rebels to a 31-14 victory over the Hogs at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Arkansas wound up 6-6 in Houston Nutt's third season as coach. More SEC teams will end up coming west for the Vegas Bowl in the future as tie-ins will alternate between the Pac 12 and Big Ten and Pac 12 and SEC every other year. After the Gators play here, an SEC team will return to Sin City in 2024.

It was founded to boost winter tourism

It's hard to believe there's any slow weekend in Vegas, but in mid-December, with temperatures sometimes dipping into the 30s at night, the town loses some of its appeal. Sure, there's gambling, but most of the pools are closed due to the cold weather and walking along the strip isn't quite the same bundled up.

Organizers of the event were looking to fill a tourism void in town after the National Finals Rodeo the first week of December. So, on Dec. 18, 1992, the Las Vegas Bowl was born, with Bowling Green edging Nevada in a 35-34 thriller before an announced 15,476 at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Los Angeles Times dubbed the event "the most exciting bowl game of the year."

Some good bowl swag

It's not quite a six or seven-figure NIL deal but players from both teams will receive some decent bowl gifts for their appearance in the game.

The gifts include:

  • $350 to spend in the official bowl Gift Suite
  • Luxurious team-branded full-sized Las Vegas Bowl robe
  • Oakley Back Pack
  • Tech Kit
  • Las Vegas Bowl Beanie
  • Las Vegas Bowl bag tag