For the second consecutive year, Dan Mullen will lead Florida to a New Year’s Six Bowl.
The Gators found themselves ranked 9th in the penultimate College Football Rankings on Tuesday night. By itself, that means Florida would be highly likely to go to a New Year’s Six game. Then factor in that at least two, maybe more teams currently ranked ahead of them are going to lose with conference championship games still to play, and a New Year’s Six Bowl is as much of a guarantee as you can get without an official announcement.
Many were flabbergasted when Florida remained behind Penn State last week after the Nittany Lions lost to Ohio State. Keeping PSU ahead of the Gators seemed to indicate that the Nittany Lions were going to be ahead of Florida in the NY6 at-large bowl pool. But when the Lions struggled against Rutgers and Florida easily handled FSU, the committee reversed its mind and placed Florida ahead of Penn State. And since the committee statement includes the fact that it doesn’t swap the order of two teams that don’t play in a given week, that’s the end of that; Florida will be ranked ahead of Penn State when the time comes to create the New Year’s Six matchups.
Where, exactly, Florida will go remains to be seen.
It’s a complicated scenario that changes every year, but basically, the way the New Year’s Six Bowls work this year is that of the eight slots in the four games, six are tied in to specific conferences- or in the case of the Cotton Bowl- to the highest ranked champion from the American, Conference USA, Sun Belt, Mid American or Mountain West conferences. The Rose Bowl will take the highest ranked teams outside the top four from the Big 10 and Pac-12, and the Sugar Bowl will do the same from the SEC and Big 12. The ACC follows suit with one of its slots with the Orange Bowl, and pits that ACC team against the next highest ranked team from either the SEC or Big 10, or Notre Dame (which is not applicable this year, as the Irish are way down in the mid teens).
It’s possible, albeit not likely, that Florida will be the highest ranked SEC team outside the Playoff, in which case they’d go to the Sugar. More likely, though, is that Florida will fill that Orange Bowl spot opposite an ACC team- likely Virginia- as the highest ranked SEC/Big 10/Notre Dame team to not go to the Playoff, Sugar or Rose Bowls. If weirdness ensues, Florida could find itself in the Cotton Bowl as an at-large selection, which is certainly not a bad fallback option.
I’ll break down all the bowl and opponent possibilities and likelihoods tomorrow, but for now, know that the Gators are going to once again be playing on one of the largest and most prestigious stages in college football to close out the season.