Do the Gators return to the New Year’s Six in these bowl projections?

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Florida is yet to make the College Football Playoff since the system was created in 2014, but coach Dan Mullen managed to crack the New Year’s Six Bowl field for the first time since the inception of the CFP in his first year in 2018. UF has now gone to six-straight NY6 bowls under Mullen, winning the first two and dropping the Cotton Bowl last year against Oklahoma while shorthanded.

Though last year’s squad dropped the final three games of the season to finish 8-4, that mark is a bit deceiving. The 2020 squad was likely Mullen’s best so far, and replacing the productivity of the best passing offense the program has seen in a decade (led by Kyle Trask, the best quarterback the program has seen in a decade) won’t be easy.

It’s not surprising that some expect the 2021 season to be a bit of a transition year in Gainesville. 247Sports’ Brad Crawford is among this group, and though he doesn’t have UF dropping off significantly, he does have them missing out on the NY6 for the first time during Mullen’s tenure.

In his bowl projections, he has the Gators going to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando to take on Iowa. Florida hasn’t played in the Citrus Bowl since it lost to Michigan under Jim McElwain in 2016. UF last faced the Hawkeyes the following postseason, defeating them in the Outback Bowl with Austin Appleby starting at quarterback.

The two teams have played just four matchups ever, with Florida leading the series 3-1. The squads first faced in 1983, and since then, they’ve played each other in the Outback Bowl in 2004, 2006 and 2017.

Missing out on the NY6 for the first time in Mullen’s tenure would certainly be a disappointing outcome to the season, but new quarterback Emory Jones has a lot of production to replace with Trask and his top three receivers gone. Though this team is young and will rely on some new pieces, it’s a crucial year for Mullen, who now has his guys fully installed.

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