The Florida Gators won’t play for an SEC Championship next week but with a 10-2 record, they are set up to play in a premier bowl game.
Shortly after Florida’s dominant 40-17 win over Florida State on Saturday Dan Mullen made a case for the Gators to get into a New Year’s Six bowl game or more.
“I think you look at it, we’re 10-2, we’ve played a tough non-conference schedule, going out,” Mullen said. “It’s going to determine a lot. You look, you say, OK we went out to aggressively schedule two Power 5 teams non-conference. You know, there’s a lot of teams not doing that. Unfortunately, we lost 2 games by a total of 21 points to the two teams that are right now in the top-4 in the country.”
Florida’s two losses came to LSU and Georgia, who are ranked 2 and 4 respectively. Those losses were by a combined 21 points and other than that the Gators have been solid all season. As Mullen said, they played two Power Five out of conference opponents in Miami and FSU. It doesn’t help that both of those teams finished the regular season with 6-6 records but Florida can’t control that. They have a big win over Auburn, who just knocked off Alabama on Saturday.
Mullen’s comments weren’t limited to just his team and what they’ve done. He pointed out Baylor jumping up in the rankings after beating, at the time, a six-win Texas team.
“(You) never know how that’s going to play out. Hopefully, we did enough to get a New Year’s Six Bowl, maybe even more,” he said. “I saw, right, Baylor beat a 6-win team last week and jumped up 5 spots. We did the same thing today, pretty handily, so we’ll see how that is.”
The comment is slightly awkward with Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin sitting in the room. Stricklin is on the College Football Playoff committee that makes the rankings but all members of the committee must recuse themselves when their institutions or any institution they have ties to comes up for debate.
Right now the Gators will have to wait for the new rankings on Tuesday. No. 8 Minnesota lost to Wisconsin 38-17 and will likely drop below the Gators. The team to watch is Alabama. The Tide was toppled in the Iron Bowl. They had previously been ranked No. 5 but their résumé isn’t very good, surprisingly. Their best win this season is over a 7-5 Texas A&M team.
It’s very unlikely Florida will get into the playoff, if not impossible, but a NY6 bowl game should be a reality. The Gators could jump over Alabama this week and if LSU beats Georgia in the SEC Championship game that will send LSU to the playoff and Georgia to the Sugar Bowl.
The Rose Bowl takes Big Ten and Pac 12 teams. The Sugar gets teams from the SEC and Big 12. Right now that would be Oklahoma. The Cotton Bowl takes the highest-ranked Group of 5 team and then waits for the rest of the bowls to pick teams before taking the last pick. The Orange Bowl takes an ACC team, right now Virginia, and then the highest-ranked SEC/Big Ten/ Notre Dame team.
Florida has just Penn State ahead of them, assuming the Minnesota drop after their loss, meaning Penn State would go to the Rose, leaving the Orange open for Florida.
That would be back-to-back New Year’s Six Bowl games for Dan Mullen at Florida. That’s a heck of a start for the head coach and the Gators are hoping to get to that game and show that they can play with anybody in the country.
“We did everything that we could do,” senior lineman Jon Greenard said. “No other team, injury big caught us at the wrong time. They know what we can do when we’re healthy. When we’re healthy we can play against anybody in this country. I like us against everyone. And I’m standing on that.”