Florida football: Exploring the Gators' bowl possibilities
Heading into a bye week and then the season finale against Florida State, Dan Mullen and Florida appear poised to head to a second consecutive New Year’s 6 Bowl appearance. The Gators are 9-2 after Saturday’s victory over Missouri and will be heavily favored to dispatch the rival Seminoles with ease Nov. 30 in The Swamp. Should Florida finish 10-2, a New Year’s 6 (NY6) bowl would seem likely for Florida thanks to B1G attrition.
After a decade in which Florida made only 1 “marquee” bowl game (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Peach, Cotton) from 2010-2017, closing the decade with back-to-back appearances in marquee bowl games would be a sign of the program’s ascent under Mullen.
The Gators need to beat Florida State, but if they do that, they’ll be in excellent position to slide into the NY6 based on expected results elsewhere in college football.
Here is a look at Florida’s four most likely bowl destinations, and potential opponents in each spot.
When: Jan. 1, 2020 (8:45 p.m.)
The Skinny on Florida’s chances: The Sugar Bowl slots in with the first choice of SEC teams that don’t make the College Football Playoff. The Gators aren’t particularly likely to go to this bowl game, as most projections as of Sunday have Alabama or Georgia in this spot, but there is a scenario where it happens. That would require Alabama to lose the Iron Bowl at Auburn in 2 weeks, which seems possible now with Tua Tagovailoa’s unfortunate injury knocking him out for the season. Then, LSU would need to defeat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl would need to pick 2-loss Florida over 2-loss Georgia. Not likely, but possible.
SDS Projected matchup: Georgia vs. Oklahoma
When: Dec. 28, 2019 (noon)
The Skinny on Florida’s chances: Most NY6 projections have Florida in this game, and it makes plenty of sense.
Barring an Alabama loss to Auburn — and perhaps even with one — Florida would likely be the last SEC team in the NY6 and the Cotton Bowl, picking last, would be left with the Gators. Their opponent would be the top of Group of 5 team, which at present is poised to be Mike Norvell and Memphis.
It’s an intriguing game: Norvell was given shortlist odds for the Florida job in Vegas (though he wasn’t formally considered) before Mullen was hired, and the Tigers already have some impressive scalps this season, beating Ole Miss in the season opener and defeating sound Navy and SMU teams.
Would Florida take them seriously? It’s an interesting question, and one we might find out.
Should Alabama lose the Iron Bowl and LSU beat Georgia in Atlanta, though, everything in the SEC from a NY6 standpoint would be in disarray — and there’s a scenario where the Orange Bowl, choosing between Tua-less Alabama and home state Florida, takes the Gators, relegating the Tide to Jerry’s World for the holidays.
SDS Projection: Alabama vs. Memphis
When: Dec. 30, 2019 (8 p.m.)
The Skinny on Florida’s Chances: The Orange Bowl is a fascinating one because the Orange Bowl Committee would certainly love to sell tickets to Florida fans. The Orange Bowl has an ACC tie-in and then “choice,” and the Orange Bowl Committee might think it caught a bit of a break by the way Wake Forest was absolutely throttled by Clemson on Saturday afternoon. The way the Demon Deacons lost likely eliminates Wake from the NY6 conversation, which means the Orange Bowl Committee could ultimately decide between the Virginia-Virginia Tech winner, who would presumably have 4 losses after the ACC Championship Game, or Notre Dame, which should finish 10-2 barring a disaster against Boston College or Stanford.
A Florida-Notre Dame Orange Bowl has huge television and ticket sales appeal and might be too good to pass up, especially if the other option is a Georgia squad that has already squared off with the Irish.
SDS Projected Matchup: Florida vs. Notre Dame
When: Jan. 1, 2020 (1 p.m.)
The Skinny on Florida’s chances: Vrbo sponsors this bowl. I’ll be honest — I had to Google what Vrbo is, and found it ironic — for Florida fans purposes, at least — that it’s a vacation rental company. I guess that makes sense that a vacation rental company would sponsor the Citrus Bowl. But I don’t think the Gators want to vacation in Orlando this holiday season.
There’s still a chance that’s Florida’s best option, of course. There are two ways that Florida ends up in Orlando.
First, the Gators could lose the Florida State game in 2 weeks. Do that, and there’s no NY6 bowl, regardless of what happens elsewhere.
Second, the B1G attrition, coupled with some odd results elsewhere, could force Florida out. The second scenario is much less likely, so the main thing for Florida right now is to avoid losing to an FSU team playing hard for a beloved interim coach.
SDS Projected Matchup: Auburn vs. Wisconsin