Can the Gators make the New Year’s Six after the Kentucky loss?

·2 min read

Florida’s hopes at the College Football Playoff were basically ended with Saturday night’s upset at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats. But with Texas A&M losing its second in a row (ahead of a matchup against Alabama) and Arkansas and Ole Miss looking uncompetitive in blowout losses to Georgia and Alabama, respectively, the path to the New Year’s Six remains for UF.

But the biggest problem for the Gators currently is the upstart, 5-0 UK squad that just beat them. Even if Georgia and Alabama were both playoff-bound, Kentucky would currently be the top team in the pecking order for SEC’s NY6 bid.

And it’s for that reason that both ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach predict that Florida will miss the NY6 for the first time during coach Dan Mullen‘s tenure.

Bonagura has the UF heading to Jacksonville to face off against North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl. Despite the game’s name, Florida has only played in the bowl twice since the program hired Steve Spurrier in 1990. The most recent appearance was in 2011 when the Gators defeated the Jim Tressel-less Ohio State Buckeyes led by then-interim coach Luke Fickell. That was Fickell’s last game as interim before Urban Meyer stepped in to replace Tressel full-time.

The Wolfpack have a loss to Mississippi State on the resume, but they notched one of the bigger wins in program history two weeks ago by upsetting Clemson. It would be the first matchup between the two schools since 1992.

Schlabach, meanwhile, has a slightly more optimistic outlook for UF. He has it landing in a more familiar spot at the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Florida has made five Outback Bowl appearances this century, most recently blowing out Iowa in 2016 with Austin Appleby at quarterback.

He has the Gators drawing Michigan State, who they have only faced once in program history in the Citrus Bowl after the 1999 season. The Spartans won that game 37-34.

But for a season that began with College Football Playoff hopes as the goal and a fourth-straight New Year’s Six appearance as a fallback, it’s hard to imagine either of these two matchups would be a satisfying conclusion to the season for Florida fans.

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