Breaking down the Gators’ 2019 bowl possibilities

Florida Gators
Florida is most likely going to the Orange Bowl… but not so fast. There are complications.

Selection Sunday is nearly upon us, but this past week’s College Football Playoff Rankings seemingly revealed a resolution to something that was very much up in the air: that for the second straight year, the Florida Gators are going to a New Year’s Six Bowl.

Where, exactly, Florida will go remains to be seen- but there is certainly one leading candidate.

With three sets of rotations for the pairs of CFP Semifinals, the New Year’s Six bowls work differently every three years; Power Five conferences have tie-ins to the Rose Bowl (Pac-12 and Big 10), Sugar Bowl (SEC and Big 12) and Orange Bowl (ACC and the highest ranked SEC or Big 10 team to not go to Rose or Sugar Bowls) in years in which they are not CFP semifinals, and this year, none of the three are semifinals. That means that, with the highest ranked Group of Five conference champion also guaranteed a spot somewhere in the NY6 (which this year would be the Cotton Bowl, as the other three all have specific conference tie-ins), there is only one true at-large spot that does not have to go to a specific conference.

What does that mean for Florida? Well, right now, the most likely landing spot for the Gators is the Capital One Orange Bowl against Virginia… but there are caveats littered all over the place (not the least of which involves the Selection Committee’s penchant for overreaction to single results). I’ll get to them all in a second. For now, though, here’s a look at Scenario A, i.e. how the New Year’s Six Bowls would shake out assuming that there are zero surprises this weekend- both in the conference championship games on Friday and Saturday, and then in the Selection Show on Sunday.

Scenario A: all chalk holds
Peach Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal) Fiesta Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal)
CFP #1 CFP #4 CFP #2 CFP #3
  LSU  Utah  Ohio State  Clemson
Image result for rose bowl game Image result for sugar bowl game
Rose Bowl- Jan 1, 5:00pm Sugar Bowl- Jan 1, 8:45pm
Big 10 #1 Pac 12 #1 SEC #1 Big 12 #1
Image result for penn state nittany lion Penn State Image result for oregon ducks logo Oregon  Georgia  Oklahoma
Orange Bowl- Dec 30, 8:00pm Cotton Bowl- Dec 28, noon
ACC #1 SEC/Big 10 #2 GO5 At-large
  Virginia  Florida  Memphis  Baylor

As mentioned above, this scenario is banking on chalk holding everywhere. But there’s a lot of chalk to be held. So, Scenario A is assuming the following things happen, game spread included in parentheses. Bolded bullet points mean that upset by itself could change the scenario for Florida; bullet points that are not bolded either don’t directly concern Florida or require chaos elsewhere to take effect.

  • LSU (-7.5) beats Georgia in the SEC Championship
  • Committee keeps Georgia ahead of Florida after loss to LSU
  • Ohio State (-16.5) beats Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship
  • Oklahoma (-9) beats Baylor in the Big 12 Championship
  • Utah (-6.5) beats Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship
  • Clemson (-30) beats Virginia in the ACC Championship
  • Committee slides Wisconsin below Florida after loss to Ohio State
  • Committee slides Baylor below Florida after loss to Oklahoma
  • Committee vaults Utah over Georgia after win over Oregon

All of this would mean that Florida finishes #7 in the final CFP Rankings, the second highest ranked SEC team to not make the Playoff, and the highest ranked SEC/Big 10 team to not make the CFP, Sugar or Rose Bowls. Which sends Georgia to the Sugar Bowl as the highest ranked SEC team to not make the Playoff, Wisconsin or Penn State to the Rose Bowl as the highest ranked Big 10 team to not make the Playoff, and Florida to the Orange Bowl as the highest ranked remaining SEC or Big 10 team.

But if either one of those bolded bulletpoints we’re banking on go awry, Florida goes to the Sugar Bowl.

Let’s start with the least unlikely and most relevant upset: Georgia beating LSU. It’s a stretch given how Joe Burrow has been playing all year, but it’s not altogether unfathomable with the way Georgia’s defense has looked throughout the season. That opens up a whole new world of possibilities, some of which are good and some of which are bad for Florida. The Bulldogs pulling off the upset in Atlanta would almost certainly mean that both Georgia and LSU would go to the Playoff, which would mean the Gators would be the highest ranked SEC team to not go to the Playoff. That seals off potential entry into the CFP for anyone currently outside the top four, as LSU is all but guaranteed to go at 12-1 with its only loss coming to #4, and puts Florida in the Sugar Bowl against the winner of the Big 12 Championship (likely Oklahoma).

For housekeeping purposes: I would also assume that with its loss to Ohio State, Wisconsin would drop below Auburn, making Gus Malzahn’s team the next highest ranked SEC or Big 10 team. Now, assuming chalk holds everywhere else, that scenario would look like this:

Scenario B: Georgia upsets LSU, all other chalk holds
Peach Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal) Fiesta Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal)
CFP #1 CFP #4 CFP #2 CFP #3
 Ohio State   LSU  Clemson  Georgia
Image result for rose bowl game Image result for sugar bowl game
Rose Bowl- Jan 1, 5:00pm Sugar Bowl- Jan 1, 8:45pm
Big 10 #1 Pac 12 #1 SEC #1 Big 12 #1
Image result for penn state nittany lion Penn State  Utah  Florida  Oklahoma
Orange Bowl- Dec 30, 8:00pm Cotton Bowl- Dec 28, noon
ACC #1 SEC/Big 10 #2 GO5 At-large
  Virginia  Auburn  Memphis  Baylor

Or, we could consider a variation of that scenario- one that, for those Gator fans who value the Sugar Bowl more than the Orange due to its slightly greater prestige, could see them win twice over.

Every now and then in college football, there comes a game between two highly ranked teams that’s billed as a clash of the titans where one team surprises the oddsmakers and just absolutely bludgeons the other. Let’s say that the Committee watches Georgia get beaten up so badly by an LSU team that Florida hung tight with for three and a half quarters that it eschews the Bulldogs’ head to head win over the Gators and drops Georgia beneath Florida. Even with a somewhat close loss, say, by 17 points or so, it’s not out of the question; this committee has been unpredictable and gone against its own listed metrics before. But if LSU upsets the Vegas line and wins by five touchdowns or so, it’s a real possibility.

In this case, barring a massive fall in the rankings from Georgia that dumps Georgia from the New Year’s Six entirely (which I tend to doubt), Florida and Georgia would simply swap spots from Scenario A, which would look like this:

Scenario C: LSU blows Georgia away, committee drops Georgia below Florida
Peach Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal) Fiesta Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal)
CFP #1 CFP #4 CFP #2 CFP #3
  LSU  Utah  Ohio State  Clemson
Image result for rose bowl game Image result for sugar bowl game
Rose Bowl- Jan 1, 5:00pm Sugar Bowl- Jan 1, 8:45pm
Big 10 #1 Pac 12 #1 SEC #1 Big 12 #1
Image result for penn state nittany lion Penn State Image result for oregon ducks logo Oregon  Florida  Oklahoma
Orange Bowl- Dec 30, 8:00pm Cotton Bowl- Dec 28, noon
ACC #1 SEC/Big 10 #2 GO5 At-large
  Virginia  Georgia  Memphis  Baylor

There’s yet a third scenario involving that Georgia and LSU game that could see Florida wind up in the Sugar Bowl, too: if Georgia and LSU put on a game for the ages that goes down to the wire, the committee could be compelled to keep the Bulldogs in the top four with two losses.

Of course, this is much likelier to happen if Utah also loses the Pac-12 title game to Oregon, and Oklahoma loses the Big 12 title game to Baylor. Because then, the Bulldogs would have two losses, yes, but multiple wins over top eleven and potentially top ten opponents (Florida and Auburn) whereas Baylor would only have one such win. Even still, that’s extremely unlikely, but it’s likely enough for me to copy and paste that table code once more.

So let’s help out the likelihood of Georgia staying in the top four with a loss to LSU by saying the two teams below them- Utah and Oklahoma- get upset in their respective conference title games. Assuming my theory of LSU jumping Ohio State with a win in Atlanta holds, the Tigers would then have to turn around and face Georgia all over again in a semifinal, while Florida slides up into the Sugar Bowl slot just the same. In other words, here’s how it would look if the season ended today and the Buckeyes and Bayou Bengals swapped spots:

Scenario D: Georgia loses a close game to LSU, Utah and Oklahoma both lose
Peach Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal) Fiesta Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal)
CFP #1 CFP #4 CFP #2 CFP #3
  LSU  Georgia  Ohio State  Clemson
Image result for rose bowl game Image result for sugar bowl game
Rose Bowl- Jan 1, 5:00pm Sugar Bowl- Jan 1, 8:45pm
Big 10 #1 Pac 12 #1 SEC #1 Big 12 #1
Image result for penn state nittany lion Penn State  Utah  Florida  Oklahoma
Orange Bowl- Dec 30, 8:00pm Cotton Bowl- Dec 28, noon
ACC #1 SEC/Big 10 #2 GO5 At-large
  Virginia  Auburn  Memphis  Baylor

Now we get into the second championship game result that could screw with Florida’s Orange Bowl date with Virginia, this time in a bad way… although it’s worth pointing out right away that things are extremely unlikely to unfold this way. If Wisconsin does the unthinkable and upsets Ohio State in the Big 10 championship game, the Gators could find themselves in the Cotton Bowl.

What that result would do is ensure that the Badgers- currently ranked #8, one slot ahead of Florida- stay ranked ahead of Florida. By itself, that does nothing to Dan Mullen’s team. Wisconsin, as the highest ranked Big 10 team, would go to the Rose Bowl over Penn State, and Florida would remain in the Orange Bowl.

But this committee has set a precedent of wildly overreacting to single results- most recently by dropping Minnesota down ten spots after losing to Wisconsin, and before that, by vaulting Baylor five spots up the rankings after the Bears beat a 6-5 Texas team. So in theory, they could do it again, say, by dropping Ohio State four spots down to #5 with a loss to Wisconsin. Say chalk holds elsewhere. That would make the four team field consist of LSU, Clemson, Utah and Oklahoma. This scenario would make Georgia the highest ranked SEC team outside the CFP field, placing them in the Sugar Bowl. Whichever Big 10 finalist the committee ranks higher would go to the Rose Bowl, and the lower ranked finalist- which, bear in mind, would still be ranked ahead of Florida- goes to the Orange Bowl as the highest ranked SEC or Big 10 team to not make the CFP, Rose or Sugar Bowls.

Which would look like this:

Scenario E: Wisconsin upsets Ohio State, committee screws Buckeyes out of CFP spot
Peach Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal) Fiesta Bowl- Dec 28 (CFP semifinal)
CFP #1 CFP #4 CFP #2 CFP #3
  LSU  Oklahoma  Clemson  Utah
Image result for rose bowl game Image result for sugar bowl game
Rose Bowl- Jan 1, 5:00pm Sugar Bowl- Jan 1, 8:45pm
Big 10 #1 Pac 12 #1 SEC #1 Big 12 #1
 Ohio State Image result for oregon ducks logo Oregon  Georgia  Baylor
Orange Bowl- Dec 30, 8:00pm Cotton Bowl- Dec 28, noon
ACC #1 SEC/Big 10 #2 GO5 At-large
  Virginia  Wisconsin  Memphis  Florida

And then you’ve still got a grab bag of additional permutations and combinations, like if Virginia shocks Clemson in the ACC title game and suddenly Florida is facing Clemson in the Orange Bowl, or if Georgia achieves one of the aforementioned results that would result in Florida being the highest ranked non CFP SEC team but the Big 12 title game result flips so that the Gators draw Baylor in the Sugar Bowl, but those are the skeletons of Florida’s postseason scenarios. I don’t feel the need to copy and paste that whole table code again just to explain that Memphis could be replaced by Cincinnati or Boise State in the Group of Five Cotton Bowl slot; y’all can mentally shift that kind of thing around.

For all intents and purposes, these are the Gators’ bowl possibilities. In short, it looks like Florida’s headed to the Orange Bowl against Virginia, with a strong secondary landing spot being the Sugar Bowl. And yes, there is a microscopic chance that Florida winds up in the Cotton Bowl if the Selection Committee goes rogue.

But the bottom line is that in some way, shape or form, the Gators will be in the New Year’s Six for the second straight season under Dan Mullen. There is no combination of results this weekend that could possibly deter Florida from playing in one of these higher level bowls.

And so wherever Florida goes, it will be a nice reward for a job well done by Mullen and his team in 2019.

One thought on “Breaking down the Gators’ 2019 bowl possibilities

  1. What about the following scenario:
    LSU blows Georgia away, Virginia blows Clemson away and Oregon over Utah in close game?
    Could Clemson fall below Florida in this scenario with only one loss (a bad one)?
    If yes, then Florida could move ahead of Georgia, Clemson, Utah and loser of Baylor-Oklahoma as well as Wisconsin (losing to Ohio State).
    Have not seen anyone discuss this scenario as it is so much chaos for that to happen, but then again, chaos had to happen for Florida to win it’s first NC in 1996.

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