After Florida fell out of contention in the SEC East with consecutive losses to Georgia and Missouri, the Gators’ focus down the stretch turned to trying to earn a berth in a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl game.
UF’s reward for a big turnaround season — from 4-7 to 9-3 — in Dan Mullen’s first year is a trip to Atlanta to play Michigan in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 29. The game has a noon kickoff and televised on ESPN.
The Gators finished 10th in the final College Football Playoff standings Sunday. About an hour later, the Peach Bowl bid was extended to Florida.
“I’m proud of our team of how they have embraced everything this year and finished strong and now they get the reward of playing in a high-profile bowl game for the opportunity to win 10 games,” Mullen said. “We will have some more time off to focus on academics and get our bodies right before we get back to work, prepare for the game and enjoy our time in Atlanta, which is a special city for us and our fans.”
As part of his contract, Mullen will receive a $200,000 bonus for getting the Gators into a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The Gators earned the bid by closing out the season with consecutive wins against South Carolina, Idaho and arch-rival Florida State. In the final regular-season AP poll, which came out Sunday, Florida is ranked 10th.
“We are honored to accept a bid to play in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl,” UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “I’m happy for Coach Mullen, his staff and the players who put in a lot of work to have the opportunity to play in a New Year Six Bowl. It will be a great week in Atlanta for our players, staff and fans.”
The Gators will not be going against their former head coach in Atlanta. Jim McElwain, who coached the Michigan wide receivers this season, was hired as the head coach at Central Michigan on Sunday and is no longer on Jim Harbaugh’s staff.
“I really like Jim a lot,” Harbaugh said. “I’m really excited for him. I think it’s a great fit.”
The Wolverines, who finished the regular season with a stunning 62-39 rout at the hands of Ohio State, finished seventh in the final CFP standings and are 10-2 on the season, 8-1 in The Big Ten.
UF has never beaten Michigan. The Wolverines own a 4-0 record against the Gators, including a 33-17 win in last season’s opener and a 41-7 victory in the 2015 Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
“I always looked at the Florida Gators as one of the top teams in college football,” Harbaugh said. “A lot of talent and very well coached team. I caught them on TV a few times and we’ll have a good amount of preparation time. Looking forward to the competition and how we can be successful.”
The Gator ticket office is accepting Peach Bowl order requests until 5 p.m. today. Ticket holders can login to their account to order tickets. Complete bowl ordering information can be found at https://florida gators.com/sports/2018/10/22/football-bowl-tickets.aspx. UF students will be receiving separate information on how to purchase tickets.
Note: Offensive analyst Ben McDaniels will coach the receivers in place of McElwain. McDaniels was offensive coordinator at Rutgers in 2015 and was an analyst for the Chicago Bears for two years before joining the Wolverines staff.