College Football Playoff Rankings: Florida’s New Year’s Six chances drastically improve

By Adam Silverstein
December 3, 2019
College Football Playoff Rankings: Florida’s New Year’s Six chances drastically improve
Football

Image Credit: GatorsFB / Twitter

What a difference one week can make. After looking like they could be held out of the New Year’s Six bowl games altogether despite putting together a tremendous record against one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, the Florida Gators saw their chances improve drastically on Tuesday night when the penultimate College Football Playoff Rankings were released.

Florida moved up two spots to No. 9 in the rankings and — this is the key — jumped Penn State, putting it in prime position for one of the three potential New Year’s Six bids it could acquire in the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl. (Much more on that below.)

The Gators are the third-highest rated SEC team behind No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Georgia, but they are still the second-ranked two-loss team, now behind Wisconsin, which jumped Florida (and Penn State) after beating Minnesota on Saturday.

Before we get to the New Year’s Six bowl scenarios, which we detail in full, let’s take a look at the complete CFP Rankings from Dec. 3.

1. Ohio State
2. LSU
3. Clemson
4. Georgia
5. Utah
6. Oklahoma
7. Baylor
8. Wisconsin
9. Florida
10. Penn State
11. Auburn
12. Alabama
13. Oregon
14. Michigan
15. Notre Dame
16. Iowa
17. Memphis
18. Minnesota
19. Boise State
20. Cincinnati
21. Appalachian State
22. USC
23. Virginia
24. Navy
25. Oklahoma State

There are a number of machinations as to what can happen during conference championship week on Saturday and how it an affect the Gators’ bowl berth. To start, here are the three potential New Year’s Six bowls in which Florida could play along with the designations that make it possible for them to appear in those respective games.

  • Sugar Bowl (highest-ranked SEC not in CFP vs. highest-ranked Big 12 not in CFP)
  • Orange Bowl (highest-ranked ACC not in CFP vs. team from SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame)
  • Cotton Bowl (two at-large, one from Group of Five, leaving one spot)

Sugar Bowl: The Gators would earn a berth if either (a) LSU and Georgia both make the playoff, or (b) Florida is ranked ahead of the SEC Championship Game loser in Sunday’s final CFP Rankings. The first scenario is possible — “any given Saturday” and all — while the second is simply less likely.

Win or lose, LSU will be in the playoff and therefore not ranked behind UF. Its strength of schedule and strength of wins is too high to be left out barring an utter catastrophe. If Georgia wins, it is in and the Sugar Bowl spot opens. If it loses, technically, its two losses (the other to 4-8 South Carolina) would be worse than those of Florida; however, the CFP Selection Committee tends not to penalize conference championship game losers too harshly, and the Dawgs do have the head-to-head win.

Orange Bowl: This is the most likely bowl for the Gators and would only require Saturday’s games to play out to expectation. If Ohio State, LSU and Clemson all win — and let’s be honest, they should — either Utah or Oklahoma will take the final playoff spot based on the results of their games or a head-to-head comparison. Georgia would go to the Sugar Bowl, Wisconsin would likely go to the Rose Bowl (as the highest-ranked Big Ten team not in the playoff), and Florida would be the top-ranked SEC or Big Ten team, giving it the Orange Bowl.

Even if Wisconsin does not receive the same benefit of doubt as Georgia for losing its conference championship game — putting Penn State in the Rose Bowl — that would mean the Badgers would still be ranked behind the Gators. Why?

With neither UF nor PSU playing on Saturday, there should be no reason for the committee to flip their order again. However, could it theoretically happen? Yes. The reasoning for such a change would be extremely curious.

Cotton Bowl: This is where Florida would wind up if a Big Ten team bounces it out of the Orange Bowl in the aforementioned scenario. Because the Gators are not battling with the ACC, Big 12 or Pac-12 for the Orange Bowl spot, those results do not matter for that game. However, if Penn State somehow winds up ahead of Florida, pushing UF into an at-large selection, it would suddenly be in competition with teams from every other conference.

No New Year’s Six? At this point, given the Gators’ No. 9 ranking ahead of two SEC teams (one it beat, another which has a worse strength of schedule and strength of wins) and its primary New Year’s Six competition in the Nittany Lions, absolute chaos would have to occur in order for this to happen. And it would all likely start with Penn State jumping Florida for no reason, which as we mentioned above is unlikely.

Other than that, you’re talking about Oregon beating Utah and taking its Rose Bowl spot and Baylor beating Oklahoma and not making the playoff (putting Baylor in the Sugar Bowl). That would put Penn State in the Orange Bowl and put Florida head-to-head with Utah and Oklahoma for the final at-large spot. A Gators team with a win over Auburn and a dominant finish to its season — with its only losses to LSU and Georgia — should not lose out to a Utes team with a loss to 8-4 USC or a Sooners team with a loss to 8-4 Kansas State.

Bowl projection: So where does this leave Florida? Which bowl will the Gators play in this season? More likely than not, Florida will be heading to the Orange Bowl. The Sugar Bowl is a real possibility, though. South Florida fans, rejoice.

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