The loss to LSU on Saturday drops the Gators to 4-3 on the season, and after a bye, they head to Jacksonville to play the No. 1 team in the nation in the Georgia Bulldogs. You can never say never in college football, but it’s hard to see how Florida is able to even remain competitive in that one.
Assuming the team is sitting at .500 heading into the final month of the regular season, it can say goodbye to any hopes at an appearance in a New Year’s Six Bowl. And ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach think that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Both of them project that UF will land in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, where it has played five times previously (most recently after the 2016 season). However, they each predict a different opponent.
Bonagura has the team drawing a Penn State team that appeared to be in position to compete for the College Football Playoff before it lost to Iowa after losing quarterback Sean Clifford. The Nittany Lions are still theoretically in the race, but with remaining games against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, it seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, Schlabach thinks the Gators will play a different team in that Big Ten East equation: the Spartans. Michigan State is undefeated and in the middle of a stunning Year 1 for coach Mel Tucker. He’s turned this team around rapidly, and it would be an interesting bowl matchup for this Florida team.
UF last faced PSU in a bowl game back after the 2010 season in Urban Meyer’s final game as the head coach, which it won 37-24. Meanwhile, the Gators and MSU have played only once before, a slim Spartans win in the Citrus Bowl after the 1999 season.
This would be a disappointing result in Year 4 for coach Dan Mullen, who has guided this team to three consecutive New Year’s Six appearances. But it’s also likely the best this team can hope for right now.