With the regular season over for the Florida Gators, it’s time to go bowling.
Though the season didn’t turn out as planned Florida (6-5, 4-4 SEC) has multiple possible postseason sites they could play at. Defensive coordinator DJ Durkin will serve as interim head coach in the Gators’ first bowl game since the 2013 Sugar Bowl.
Here is a look into the top four most likely bowl opportunities for the Gators, with four other possible, but less feasible postseason contests.
The likely candidates:
TaxSlayer Bowl- January 2
Matchup: SEC v.s. Big Ten or ACC
Possible opponents: Iowa, Minnesota, Louisville.
The former Gator Bowl is one of the top candidates to host the Gators. Representatives have been to multiple games this year, and the TaxSlayer bowl is the shortest drive of all the bowls (71.1 miles from Gainesville to Jacksonville). The Gators are tied with Clemson for the most appearances at nine. The TaxSlayer Bowl was also Florida’s last postseason win, defeating Ohio State 24-17 in 2012.
If Florida plays in Jacksonville, they could face Minnesota (8-4), Iowa (7-5), or Louisville (9-3). The best matchup for Florida would be the Hawkeyes. Much like the Gators, Iowa has allowed a lot of points, averaging 34.4 points per game given up in the five losses. In comparison the Gators have given up an average of 32.2 points per game in their five defeats.
Duck Commander Independence Bowl- December 27
Matchup: SEC v.s. ACC
Possible opponent: North Carolina, Virginia Tech.
The second longest-running bowl of the four likely bowls, the Independence Bowl has been around since 1976. The bowl game also has what may be the most interesting sponsor this season as Duck Commander, the company led by the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame, has paid for the naming rights this year.
Florida’s possible opponent is North Carolina (6-6) and Virginia Tech (6-6). Both teams had similar disappointing seasons along with Florida. Florida’s speed would most likely allow them to have a better chance against the Hokies.
Belk Bowl- December 30
Matchup: SEC v.s. ACC
Possible opponents: Duke, North Carolina.
Belk became an official sponsor to the SEC this offseason and the Belk Bowl would be another likely candidate for the Gators. Formerly known as the Queen City Bowl, Continental Tire Bowl and Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Charlotte contest previously was a matchup of AAC and Big East teams v.s. the ACC. North Carolina has the most appearances with three.
The Belk Bowl provides local matchups for the Orange & Blue, as possible candidates would be Duke (9-3) and North Carolina (6-6). The best matchup for Florida would be North Carolina, another struggling team, who could give the Gators an easier time than Duke, who have 38.2 points per game in their wins this season.
Birmingham Bowl- January 3
Matchup: SEC v.s. AAC
Possible opponents: Cincinnati, Memphis.
The Birmingham Bowl, like nearly any bowl around, has been through a few name changes since their first game in 2006. Originally the PapaJohns.com Bowl, the game was named the BBVA Compass Bowl before being renamed the Birmingham Bowl again this year. The game is held at Legion Field, a familiar place for the SEC. The played host to multiple Iron Bowl matchups and was the site for first two SEC Championship games, which Florida played in.
The most likely opponents for Florida would be Memphis (9-3) and Cincinnati (8-3). While AAC opponents, both are scrappy squads that could provide a challenge to Florida. Of the two schools, the best matchup would be the Bearcats, as the team’s quarterback play has shown to be vulnerable at times.
Other possible bowls:
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl- December 29
Matchup: SEC v.s. Big 12
Possible opponent: Texas.
It’s extremely unlikely the Gators would end up at this bowl, but anything is possible. The likely opponent would be the 6-6 Texas Longhorns, another prestigious school trying to return to prominence.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl- December 29
Matchup: SEC v.s. Big 12
Possible opponent: West Virginia.
Given the closer bowl options, it’s unlikely the Gators play in the Liberty Bowl, though the alumni fan base would represent well. If the Orange and Blue were to play in Memphis, they most likely would face a talented West Virginia squad (7-5) that may see the return of former Florida State backup Clint Trickett.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl- December 30
Matchup: SEC v.s. ACC or Big Ten
Possible opponents: Louisville, Duke, Penn State.
The Music City Bowl’s official title is quite a mouthful, and quite a list of unfavorable opponents for Florida. Out of the three, the Gators would have the best chance against the Nittany Lions (6-6). However, given Florida’s outstanding showing of fans when the team traveled to Nashville to play Vanderbilt, the bowl committee might have a case to make to the SEC to send the Gators here.
Outback Bowl- January 1
Matchup: SEC v.s. Big Ten
Possible opponents: Maryland, Iowa, Nebraska.
Since 2005, Florida has been to the Outback Bowl twice, tied with the Sugar Bowl for second-most. The contest would provide another short trip, and a game against Maryland (7-5) or Iowa (7-5) would give the Gators the best chance of winning.