Where do the Gators land in ESPN’s bowl projections after South Carolina loss?

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We’ve known that Florida’s streak of three-straight New Year’s Six Bowl appearances would come to a close this season, but Saturday’s 40-17 loss to South Carolina raised an even more existential question: Is this team even going to a bowl game?

Florida needs to win two of its remaining three games to get to bowl eligibility. Despite the team’s struggles, it shouldn’t have many problems getting one of those two necessary wins next week against FCS Samford, who sits at just 4-5 on the season, as well.

But after that, things are murkier. The Gators should be favorites both at Missouri and at home against Florida State to conclude the regular season. But they were also three-touchdown favorites against the Gamecocks, and we all saw how that played out. If this team plays like that against the Tigers and Seminoles, coach Dan Mullen may have all the time in the world to focus on recruiting in December.

Still, ESPN analysts Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach think this team is going bowling. Bonagura is more optimistic about the Gators, predicting they will play in the Outback Bowl for the first time since the 2016 season to take on Wisconsin.

Despite the fact that both teams have played in the Outback Bowl a number of times and have programs stretching back more than a century, they’ve never faced each other on the gridiron.

Schlabach, meanwhile, projects a more disappointing destination in Nashville at the Music City Bowl to take on Purdue. The Boilermakers have been giant-killers so far this season, toppling then-No. 2 Iowa last month and then defeating No. 3 Michigan State on Saturday.

UF has also never taken on Purdue in football before.

These are fairly optimistic projections considering the fact that UF even reaching bowl eligibility is very much in question. A trip to Tampa like Bonagura predicts is probably the best-case scenario for the team at this point.

Florida will try to close out the season strong and avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 2017.

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