Bowl projections: Florida Gators’ destination clarifies after conference title games

By Adam Silverstein
December 1, 2018
Bowl projections: Florida Gators’ destination clarifies after conference title games
Football

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Though the Florida Gators did not wish to be sitting at home Saturday, that’s all they could do as the top teams in college football battled it out in conference championship games for College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl spots. The benefit of staying at home? There was no opportunity for Florida to fall among the ranked SEC teams. Why is that important? It should give Florida the best possible outcome for an at-large selection.

The subset of the bowl system consists of the four playoff teams and eight additional selections. Automatically qualifying for those eight spots would be all Power Five conference champions and Notre Dame — if ranked in the top 12 and not in the playoff — along with the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion in the CFP Rankings (UCF, which won the AAC title on Saturday). Remaining spots are chosen as at-large bids by the committee, almost assuredly from the top 12 of its rankings.

Florida winning its last three games has allowed it to slide into a major bowl game one season after missing out on the festivities completely.

So where will UF play?

With nothing significant changing when the final CFP Rankings were revealed on Sunday, the Gators will likely be headed to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 29.

Because the Group of Five selection has played in the Peach Bowl for consecutive years, most analysts believe it will be headed to the Fiesta Bowl. That would put the higher-ranked of the two SEC at-large teams in the Peach Bowl with a non-SEC at-large team (as the bowl would likely not want a conference game, particularly a rematch).

That means Florida will likely face Michigan in the Peach Bowl with UCF taking on LSU in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019, in Glendale, Arizona. The Gators were ranked a spot ahead of the Tigers in the last CFP Rankings.

How could it change? If the CFP Selection Committee or the bowl games themselves decide to change their offers, Florida could face Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl or UCF in either bowl game. It would not make much sense for the Gators to be sent across the country as a higher-ranked team than the Tigers, but it’s not impossible.

The intrastate battle for Sunshine State supremacy between UF and UCF would certainly be an interesting showdown. One would assume that the Gators would not want that game, but they don’t exactly have pull with deciding where they play (though athletic director Scott Stricklin is on the committee). It would also not make much logistical sense for two Florida teams to travel to Arizona to play a bowl game, particularly when LSU’s fan base travels better.

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