The new College Football Playoff Rankings have arrived, and they tell an interesting story for the conference:
Ohio State and Oklahoma State each fell five spots after losing. Florida fell nearly as far—four spots—after needing overtime to defeat FAU.
The selection committee isn't terribly high on the Gators right now, and it's hard to blame them when a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt and a 20-14 overtime win over a sub-.500 Sun Belt team are fresh in the members' minds. What that means, though, is that if Alabama wins out and goes to a semifinal game, the SEC's Sugar Bowl spot is up for grabs.
Remember how the selection process works?
If Alabama spits the bit against Auburn and falls out of the semifinal race, then the winner in Atlanta between either the Crimson Tide or Ole Miss and Florida will get the Sugar Bowl spot as the conference champion. But Bama almost certainly won't lose to Auburn, and it probably won't lose to the Gators either. Let's assume for now that the Tide wins out and makes the semis.
With conference champ Alabama unavailable to the Sugar Bowl, it basically will take the next highest ranked SEC team to pair up with a Big 12 team. These new rankings show that, today, there is doubt about who that next team will be.
The committee dropping UF four spots after last weekend shows that it doesn't think too highly of the Gators. In fact, only No. 14 UNC—who lost to South Carolina and hasn't played a single team that is in the current rankings—is behind UF among the one-loss, Power 5 teams.
Florida could lose to Florida State this coming weekend. If so, UF will probably drop a few spots since that's what happens to teams that lose. In this scenario we're assuming here, the Gators will also lose to Alabama the following weekend. As I pointed out last week, the precedent from last year for a team getting blown out in a conference title game is Arizona falling four places after Oregon hammered it in the Pac-12 Championship.
OK, so let's take a peek at the Egg Bowl participants. Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State are 8-3. The winner of that contest will get a boost in the rankings for having defeated a quality opponent on Saturday. Between then and the final rankings, some teams that are currently ahead of one or both of them will lose and fall down as well.
One such falling team could be Florida, should it lose out from here. Ole Miss is sitting at No. 18, and it climbing a couple spots an after Egg Bowl win combined with UF dropping, say, three this week and four the next would easily put the Rebels in New Orleans on New Year's Eve. It would be a tougher task for No. 21 Mississippi State, but it's probably doable depending on exactly how the applicable games are decided.
There is the matter of Florida having a 38-10 head-to-head win over Ole Miss, but consider one of the criteria that the selection committee protocol says to consider:
Other relevant factors such as key injuries that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.
It's not an injury that has Will Grier sidelined until next October, but he was a major part of Florida's win over the Rebels. It's likely that the committee has come to the same conclusion as just about everyone else, which is that the Gators' offensive ceiling is higher with Grier than with Treon Harris. Putting three-loss Ole Miss ahead of three-loss Florida, even with UF's third loss coming in a conference championship game, would be consistent with the committee's guidelines. And, of course, this is moot when comparing three-loss Florida with a three-loss Mississippi State team.
If Florida beats Florida State, it will basically clinch a New Year's Six bowl. It would then either shock the world and beat Alabama, most likely putting the team into the semifinals, or put enough distance between itself and the Egg Bowl winner to be safely in the Sugar (provided Bama doesn't lose to Auburn, which it won't). But if UF does lose to FSU, it potentially opens the doors of the Superdome to the Egg Bowl winner and sends the Gators down I-75 and the turnpike to the Citrus Bowl.
You'll see plenty of cowbell shaking in Starkville on Saturday night, but don't be surprised if you see a few tomahawk chops mixed in too.