[Updated: 11-29-18] When the latest College Football Playoff rankings came out Tuesday night, Florida fans had every reason to be excited.
The Gators were ninth, which means they are about as locked in to a New Year’s Six bowl as you can get. That’s a big deal for Dan Mullen in his first year as the Florida coach.
Florida will likely play in the Peach Bowl against Michigan, although crazy things could happen like Georgia beating Alabama and both getting into the playoff and Florida being slotted into the Sugar Bowl (as the highest ranked SEC team not in the playoff) against the Big 12 champ.
(The good news is you are in a New Year’s Six bowl; the bad news is you’re playing a really good team).
We’ll know for sure Sunday (the Fiesta seems the least likely destination for the Gators) and start cursing the airfares and ticket prices.
But in the glow of being named a top-10 team and the SEC becoming the first conference to have eight teams ranked in the CFP, Florida fans also found themselves being dissed.
Network TV talking heads were questioning whether Florida belonged at No. 9. College football writer Stewart Mandel of The Athletic tweeted this — “Do even Florida fans believe Florida is the ninth-best team in the country?”
Talk about a buzz kill.
Hey, look. I’ve watched every play of this team and there are times they have not looked like the 29th best team in the country, let alone the ninth. But when you cover a team, you tend to see all of the warts.
This has been a different year for college football in that usually there are a lot of two-loss teams right around the 8-to-14 range. That’s not the case this year.
The truth is Florida has a better resume than the teams that are below UF. The Gators have two wins over teams ranked in the top 18 and all three losses came against teams in the top 25.
Let’s look at the teams following Florida:
10. LSU — lost head-to-head to Florida.
11. Washington — all three losses to unranked teams.
12. Penn State — lack of wins over ranked teams.
13. Washington State — the worst strength of schedule of any of these teams.
14. Texas — lost to two unranked teams.
15. Kentucky — probably lower than I would have the Wildcats, but the Tennessee loss was a really bad one.
In conclusion (what, am I giving a presentation to the board?), Florida may or not be the ninth best team in the country, but the Gators have the ninth-best resume.
Now that I have cleared that up, on to The Picks, Last week’s were about as bloated as I was after Thanksgiving dinner with 16 picks. I went 12-4 to make the season record 95-41, which I thought was pretty good until my wife pointed out that the percentage (.699) is good if you are shooting 3s, but not if you are a surgeon.
On to the championships:
ALABAMA-GEORGIA (SEC): There is a temptation here to pick the Bulldogs simply because Kirby Smart showed last year he can dissect a Nick Saban defense. But if you think I’m picking against the Tide at this point we’re putting you in concussion protocol. Alabama, 41-24.
OKLAHOMA-TEXAS (Big 12): These teams won’t know how to play a game without the smell of grease pits in the air. The biggest question I have — how much will parking be around Jerry World? I’ll bet it’s at least $50 per car. Oklahoma, 50-42.
CLEMSON-PITT (ACC): Well done, Pittsburgh. Very nice season. Proud of you. Now go home and get your shine box. (Dated “GoodFellas” reference). Clemson 35-14.
MEMPHIS AT UCF (American): I think UCF is a really good team that will play hard for its injured quarterback and earn a trip to play LSU in the Fiesta Bowl. Must be nice to have home-field advantage for a conference title game. UCF, 45-40.
UTAH-WASHINGTON (Pac-12): This game is on Friday night. Sounds like a good opportunity to see “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Utah, 23-21.
NORTHWESTERN-OHIO STATE (Big Ten): Knowing the Buckeyes, they will keep Northwestern in the game. And then they will score a lot of points in the fourth quarter and declare themselves winners of the beauty contest. Ohio State, 40-21.
BUFFALO-N. ILLINOIS (MAC): I have been this close to putting Buffalo in my top 25 several times this season. The Bills, not the Bulls. Buffalo, 34-31.
BOISE ST,-FRESNO ST. (MWC): The winner of this game is going to the Fiesta Bowl if UCF loses. There, I gave you a reason to watch. Maybe. Boise St., 38-31.
MIDDLE TENN.-UAB (Conference USA): To think UAB could get to 10 wins with a bowl game remaining. UAB, 31-23.
STANFORD AT CAL: Hey, I needed 10 games. This one was postponed from Nov. 17 because of the terrible fires in the area. Stanford, 26-18.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.