The Florida Gators are in precarious position when it comes to the college football postseason. With just four wins and one game to go, UF must beat Florida State and hope its APR score is good enough to get a spot if there aren’t enough six-win teams to fill all of the bowls.
To begin with, we don’t know if Florida would want to go to a bowl as a 5-6 team. A lot of folks are ready to move on. GC’s Nick de la Torre thinks it’d be up to the next head football coach.
Had reps here in Gainesville too. I don't expect Florida to accept a bowl invite if they get to 5-6 unless the new coach specifically asks Scott Stricklin to.
— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) November 19, 2017
But let’s suppose for now the next head coach will want the Gators to go to a postseason game in order to evaluate the team through bowl practice.
Beating FSU is no guarantee. The Seminoles’ offense is a mess, but its defense is nowhere near as wiped out by attrition as Florida’s is. ESPN’s FPI measure gives UF only a 36.2% chance of winning the game.
For the sake of argument, let’s make another assumption that the Gators come away with the victory. How likely is it that there will even be a bowl bid available for them to decide whether to accept or not?
This year, there are 78 slots in the bowls. Right now, 70 teams have hit the six-win plateau.
This coming Saturday, there are four matchups where both participants have five wins: Purdue-Indiana in the Big Ten, Cal-UCLA and Utah-Colorado in the Pac-12, and Middle Tennessee-Old Dominion in Conference USA. Therefore, four of the eight remaining bowl slots will go to the winners of these games.
Among the rest of the teams with five wins, FPI gives Louisiana Tech the best odds of winning. It says the Bulldogs have a 55.4% chance of beating UTSA at home on Saturday night.
The next-best odds belong to former UF defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and Temple, as FPI says the Owls have a 35.6% chance of beating Tulsa on the road on Saturday. From there the chances in relevant games go as follows: Duke 30.2% chances to beat Wake Forest, Buffalo 30.0% chances to beat Ohio, Tulane 27.8% chances to beat SMU, Texas Tech 25.4% chances to beat Texas, Georgia Tech 21.3% chances to beat Georgia, and Minnesota 10.6% chances to beat Wisconsin.
If those FPI odds are right, then about two or three of those five-win teams will win this weekend. If so, that would leave one or two bowl bids available for APR charity cases.
Patrick Stevens posted a list of the APR scores of teams that could finish at five wins. Florida is tenth in line with its 980 APR.
The updated chart of teams that could still finish 5-7/5-6 based on their APR scores … pic.twitter.com/UmEYSwcvbY
— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) November 19, 2017
Utah, Indiana, and Middle Tennessee are on the list ahead of UF. If you plan to root for bowl eligibility this weekend, then pull for the Utes, Hoosiers, and Blue Raiders to win their games. That will eliminate three of the teams ahead of Florida in the five-win APR derby.
As Stevens helpfully noted, three more of the teams ahead of the Gators already have seven losses: Air Force, Vanderbilt, and Maryland.
Air Force plays Utah State, and FPI gives the Falcons a 52.4% chance of winning. Vandy goes up against Tennessee, and FPI says the Commodores have a 30.7% chance of winning. Maryland will face Penn State, and the Terps only have a 6.1% chance of victory.
Maryland will probably get clubbed by the Nittany Lions, so it’s not much of a threat here. Root for Utah State, and, for one week anyway, Tennnessee.
However even if Indiana, Utah, and MTSU each win and all three of Air Force, Vandy, and Maryland lose, Florida may still already be out of it.
Remember how I said there will probably be one or two slots available for five-win APR score situations? Duke, Georgia Tech, and Minnesota are ahead of UF and already have five wins. Unless any of them turn down an invitation, and I’m not sure why they would, all of them get to go before Florida even if they lose this week.
For UF to have a bowl bid to accept or not, it needs Indiana, Utah, and Middle Tennessee to win and all of Air Force, Buffalo, Louisiana Tech, Maryland, Temple, Texas Tech, Tulane, and Vanderbilt to lose. All 11 of those games need to go the correct way, and according to FPI, three of them have at least a 50% chance of going the wrong way. And remember, all of this only works if the Gators beat FSU, which by itself only has about a one-in-three chance of happening according to FPI.
The overwhelming likelihood is that Florida’s new head coach won’t have the opportunity to make the call on going to a bowl or not.