Does Florida still have a path to the Playoff?
So, Florida’s in the College Football Playoff rankings this week.
That’s interesting because the 23rd-ranked Gators (7-2) are the only SEC team outside of top-ranked Alabama with any available path to the Playoff.
Sure, it’s an arduous one and one of the nation’s most anemic offenses gives no indication that it can pull it off. But make no mistake, the Gators have a path.
Let’s break it down, starting with what Florida must do to give itself a shot:
Wins: UMass (2-8), Kentucky (5-5), North Texas (4-6), Vanderbilt (4-6), Missouri (3-7), Georgia (6-4), South Carolina (5-5).
Losses: Tennessee (7-3), Arkansas (6-4).
Strengths: A 7-2 record against a Power Five schedule is probably the best thing the Gators have going for them. That’s not much, but it’s a start. The real strength is what’s ahead. Road games at CFP No. 16 LSU and No. 17 Florida State could give them their best wins of the season and lead up to a meeting with No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. There’s a chance that LSU, FSU and maybe even Georgia can all be ranked by season’s end. If UF can have four wins over ranked teams, including over No. 1, the Gators would be a compelling two-loss team.
Weaknesses: There are plenty in the Gators’ worksheet. Start with the only ranked team in the entire schedule up to now is No. 19 Tennessee, which beat the Gators. Aside that, it’s a schedule full of middling to poor teams. The SEC East is a problem for Florida because many are arguing it’s the weakest division among the power conferences.
What else needs to happen?
There are a lot of potential playoff teams out there with better resumes than Florida. So even a best-case scenario for the Gators on the field might not be compelling enough to get UF into a playoff without a lot of help.
So here are some scenarios that could help the Gators, who must beat Alabama in the SEC championship to have any chance:
A little Big Ten chaos: At least four Big Ten teams have better resumes than Florida (Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin), so a UF candidacy could use a little help here. And remember, the Gators don’t need for all four to lose. This is more about second teams from the Big Ten and ACC not getting in.
What are some losses that can help? Let’s start with a surprising Michigan win over Ohio State (why Michigan and not Ohio State? We’ll get to that in a minute) in a blowout. Now you’d potentially be comparing a 10-2 Florida fresh from an upset of Alabama for an SEC title with a 10-2 Ohio State coming off a bad loss with no division title. Advantage UF.
Michigan could then hand a third loss to Wisconsin in the conference title game, knocking the Badgers out of contention.
That leaves Penn State, which should finish 10-2 with wins over two bad teams (Rutgers and Michigan State). And here’s why Florida needs Ohio State to win: If Ohio State beats Michigan (and Penn State holds serve against Rutgers and Michigan State), Penn State wins the East by virtue of its win over the Buckeyes earlier this season.
Lots of very specific stuff here. But would you take Florida, even with a win over Alabama, over an 11-1 Ohio State that beats Michigan but didn’t get to the Big Ten championship?
A little ACC chaos: Not as much needs to happen here. But what you don’t want is Louisville finishing second in the Atlantic Division with one loss.
So how about Cardinals a loss to Houston? Or a loss to Kentucky? Either of those would give Florida a better resume.
USC wins the Pac-12: That would take care of Washington or Washington State. In this scenario, Colorado also loses (to Washington State, perhaps) and nobody in the Pac-12 is deserving.
A little Big 12 Bedlam: Right now, there’s this huge assumption that No. 9 Oklahoma is the best team in the Big 12 and will roll to the title.
Well, it would help if that assumption gets turned on its ear, maybe by Oklahoma State in Bedlam after OU hands West Virginia a second loss this weekend.
The hypothetical 10-2 Florida resume would be better than any Big 12 resume (save, maybe, a one-loss West Virginia, which would have to beat Oklahoma), but having a couple of dominoes fall will help clarify that issue a little more.
After all, if an Oklahoma State team with losses to Central Michigan and Baylor is your champion, then, no, the Big 12 doesn’t deserve a playoff spot.
The Gators find an offense: This is probably the biggest hurdle for Florida. The Gators put up championship numbers on defense, but struggle mightily on offense.
If quarterback Austin Appleby can find a groove and somebody in the Florida running back committee can start to stand out, then maybe Florida can negotiate its remaining schedule.
But with the offense we’ve seen most of this year from Florida, the most far-fetched scenario we’re presenting here is one with the Gators sweeping LSU, Florida State and Alabama.