After blowing out Florida State to bring its regular-season record to 9-3, Florida was rewarded by the College Football Playoff ranking committee.
The Gators moved up two spots to No. 9 in Tuesday’s updated CFP poll, making them nearly assured for one of the 12 New Year’s Six bowl spots available (minus the four playoff spots). All that’s left is to await the release of the final rankings of the season on Dec. 2 to see where they land.
Making that major bowl was one of the first things on the Gators’ minds following the conclusion of their regular season.
“Anywhere in the New Year’s Six, man,” linebacker David Reese said after the finale against the Seminoles. “I’m excited to find out where we end up.”
The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and the Capital One Orange Bowl are already off the table as they will host this year’s CFP semifinals. And as it stands, those four spots will go to Alabama (No. 1), Clemson (No. 2), Notre Dame (No.3) and Georgia (No. 4).
But the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl are all still relatively open.
The Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl are both contract bowls, so they’ll be reserved for conference champions.
The Rose Bowl usually features a matchup between the Pac 12 champion and the Big Ten champion. And the Sugar Bowl will have Big 12 against SEC.
Because the SEC title will go to either Alabama or Georgia, who are both in the semifinals right now, the slot would go to the next highest-ranked SEC team: Florida.
The Gators breaking into the top 10 and the LSU Tigers’ three-spot fall to No. 10 after their loss at Texas A&M (72-74/ 7OT) makes Florida the highest-ranked three-loss team in the playoff rankings.
As it stands, they’d likely take on No. 5 Oklahoma, as the Sooners are projected to beat No. 14 Texas in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game.
The Gators automatic bid to the Sugar bowl is contingent on what happens in the SEC Championship game, however.
A loss to Georgia brings up the question of whether the Crimson Tide deserves to stay in the four-team bracket, and if Alabama does win, Florida would have to wait to see how far the Bulldogs fall.
If either team falls out of the top four, it would knock Florida out of the Sugar bowl, leaving the Gators in either the Fiesta or Peach Bowl if they’re still in.
Either way, Florida coach Dan Mullen says his team’s resume this year, which includes quality wins over then-No. 5 LSU and then-No. 23 Mississippi State (on the road), should be enough to at least put the Gators in talks for a major bowl game.
“I think we’ve certainly put ourselves in the conversation as one of those teams that’s right there,” he said. “I think we deserve to be in the conversation for it. But you know what, there’s a lot of teams out there in the country.”
If everything unfolds in Florida’s favor, it’ll be the first New Year’s Six appearance for the Gators since the conclusion of the 2012 season, where they lost to Louisville 23-33 in the Sugar Bowl.
“There’s a lot of games still to be played and championship games that have automatic bids that could affect it,” Mullen said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”