The SEC still has two teams in the top four of the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings.
But it was the ranking of the next three conference teams that had the attention of the Gator Nation on Tuesday night.
Ever since Alabama lost to Auburn and Florida slammed FSU, fans of Florida have been wondering one thing — is the Bama brand going to be too much to overcome?
The answer was enough for Gator fans to mentally add another victory to a 10-win season.
Florida is ninth, Auburn 11th and Alabama 12th. And Florida pulled back ahead of Penn State after the Nittany Lions’ uninspired win over Rutgers.
It’s not final, of course, but it’s difficult to believe that — even though the committee scrubs the resumes clean after each announcement — that anything will change with the third, fourth and fifth SEC teams in question.
And that is good news for the Gators.
Really good news.
One year after making a New Year’s Six game in Dan Mullen’s first year, the Gators look like a lock to make it in his second.
The worries about whether the committee’s eye tests would include those crimson helmets was unfounded.
Alabama’s lack of a big win — the best teams the Tide beat were 7-5 Tennessee and 7-5 Texas A&M — mattered as did Florida’s win over the same Auburn team that beat Alabama this week.
It also kept Auburn and its three losses behind Florida at No. 11 despite the wins the Tigers have over the No. 12 and No. 13 teams in the rankings (Oregon being No. 13). Auburn’s three losses were to No. 2 LSU, No. 4 Georgia and Florida.
So with days to go, all the things we thought were reasons Florida would end up in an NY6 bowl were true and all of the paranoia was false.
Obviously, if Georgia beats LSU on Saturday, there is a real likelihood the SEC gets both teams in the playoff.
That would put Florida into the Sugar Bowl as the highest ranked SEC team not in the playoff. The Gators would play either Baylor or Oklahoma there, depending on which team is higher ranked (of course, they play Saturday and the winner will likely be in the Sugar).
Otherwise, Florida will likely head to the Orange Bowl where it would face an ACC team.
That would be No. 23 Virginia if it loses to Clemson. Clemson could conceivably still make the playoffs with a close loss and still send Virginia to the Orange.
(Sorry for the hedging, but the way this season is going there could be chaos again this weekend. It’s possible — but not likely, that Florida could still go to the Cotton).
Losses by Baylor and Wisconsin in their championship games Saturday could elevate UF to seventh heading to its bowl game.
It’s a big deal for a lot of reasons, even though the CFP gets all the love. For one thing, it all but eliminates the possibility that Florida could return to Camping World Stadium where it started the season and where so many fans had a miserable experience.
To reach the NY6 in Mullen’s first two years is huge.
It’s not the goal of the program. Championships are.
But it’s quite a consolation prize.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.