IF YOU ARE a college football player and you've missed out on a New Year's Six Bowl, the first thing on your mind is location, location, location.

So while the Temple Owls were still stinging from losing the American Athletic Conference Championship Game on Saturday at Houston, they did not let missing out on a high-profile bowl dampen the enthusiasm for where they will play.

The Boca Raton (Fla.) Bowl does not have the prestige of the Peach Bowl - where Houston will play for winning the AAC.

Temple's opponent, Toledo of the Mid-American Conference, is not Florida State, the Power 5 conference school that Houston will face in Atlanta.

Still, a trip to South Florida in December is not a bad consolation prize.

As one Temple player said after their bowl destination was announced, "It beats being in North Philly."

OK, "The Bandwagon" came up short of its intended destination. The Owls' loss at Houston knocked them out of contention for the automatic bid the College Football Selection Committee reserves for the highest-ranked champion from the Group of Five conferences.

That, however, does not erase the remarkable season Temple (10-3) put together and the Owls' first bowl-game invitation under coach Matt Rhule is an earned reward.

Frankly, the only ones knocking Temple's bid are those who have not been working their butts off at the Owls' practice facility at 10th and Diamond.

The players and coaches who have been there know what it took to get this bid.

"Any time you get on that stage of playing for a championship, you open yourself up to the disappointment of not winning it," Rhule said, "but you can't allow that disappointment to diminish everything you've accomplished.

"At the end, this is one more chance for us to be together and go play one more game together. That's the ultimate prize for me.

"I'm excited because this can set off a string of consecutive bowls for Temple football. When our freshmen are seniors, they won't know anything but going to bowl games."

Honestly, I am not sure why I got the feeling that Temple could earn a NY6 bid after the Owls won at Cincinnati in the second game.

The impetus was that Cincinnati was marked as a "dark horse" to reach the College Football Playoffs and since Temple beat the Bearcats, why not the Owls?

Looking back, that was way beyond ambitious.

Three seasons ago when Rhule took over, the players who are now seniors went 2-10 as freshmen.

Realistically, you do not go from that to qualifying for a major bowl game in a four-year span.

Temple, however, nearly pulled it off, and its unexpected run into the spotlight has been a godsend in a year of dismal sports in Philadelphia.

Until the final drive against Houston came up short on fourth down, I believed that the Owls were going to pull this off and I was going to be able to move to Las Vegas and allow my newly discovered precognitive abilities fund my retirement.

I admit it took beating Penn State and Cincy to get me on board, but the Temple players had set their agenda just about this time last year.

Despite being bowl eligible in 2014, the Owls watched helplessly as each of the bowl committees snubbed them.

Temple's theme coming into this season was "Leave No Doubt." This year, the Owls were going to make some bowl take notice.

"Last year I sent a text saying, 'I hope this hurts watching all these bowl games,' " Temple senior center Kyle Friend said. "It just got re-sent and it was good to see that because watching those bowl games allowed us to work to get to this point."

OK, so it is not the Peach Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl - the two NY6 Bowls tied into the at-large Group of Five bid.

Yes, it would have been a nice measuring rod to see where the Owls stacked up against a championship caliber Power 5 program in a major bowl.

However, the intended destination of a bandwagon is just the endgame.

The enjoyment comes from the experiences gained during the journey - the highs and lows.

If you jump off at every detour, you end up missing a lot of fun.

If you bail out because the final stop is not where you thought it would be, you might miss something special.

Temple is in a bowl game. If the Owls beat Toledo, they will set a school record for wins in a season.

That is a special opportunity, even if it is on Dec. 22 and not New Year's Day.

Boca Raton has a climate classification of tropical rainforest. The average high temperature in December is 78 degrees and the average low is 60.

Instead of "The Hawk," Boca Raton gets tropical breezes. It might rain, but it is definitely not going to snow or have sleet or freezing rain.

In other words, Temple playing in the Boca Raton Bowl is just like that Owls player said as he was leaving the training complex, "It beats being in North Philly."

The Bandwagon has one more trip to take.

Blog: ph.ly/DNL