No. 15 Florida hosts Idaho with eye on New York’s 6 bowl
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s postseason possibilities are promising, especially after finishing 4-7 last year, losing consecutive games by a combined 40 points in the last month and needing two of the largest comebacks in school history to beat Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
The 15th-ranked Gators likely would land a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl with victories against Idaho and rival Florida State.
The first part of Florida’s path comes Saturday in the Swamp, when the Gators (7-3, No. 13 CFP) host seemingly overmatched Idaho (4-6) of the Football Championship Subdivision.
“To be right there, we got to find a way to win the next two weeks and keep that a possibility for us and keep us in that discussion to be one of the top 12 teams in America,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “Everyone wants to be in the top four to get to the playoffs. If you’re not going to make that, you have the opportunity to go to one of the New Year’s Six bowls, it’s the next best thing and it kind of signifies a great season.”
The Gators haven’t looked like a great team by any means.
They had to erase an 18-point deficit to beat the Commodores on the road last month, dropped back-to-back games to Georgia and Missouri in lopsided fashion and then had to rally from 17 down to knock off the Gamecocks last week.
So Florida could be dealing with a four-game losing streak. Instead, they’re on the verge of potentially playing in the Peach Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl.
“I think it’d be huge, obviously,” Mullen said. “There’s an awful lot of football to be played. All we can do is try to take care of our business this week and next week. And then it’s kind of out of our hands at that point. Obviously, that’s a huge honor.”
The Gators expect to have a size, speed and talent advantage over the Vandals, who are finishing their season on the road.
“You’ve got to come up with everything you can to give your guys the best chance they got,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said.
Here are some other things to know about Idaho and Florida:
Idaho and Florida are playing more than four years after their first game barely got started and never finished.
The Vandals kicked off on Aug. 30, 2014, following a three-hour lightning delay. It was the game’s only play. More lightning struck, prompting the game to be delayed again. It was declared a no contest around midnight.
Florida agreed to pay Idaho the full $975,000 for the game.
Twenty Florida players will take part in “senior day” festivities before the game.
The class has been a part of two SEC Eastern Division titles and compiled a 30-18 record, including 21-11 in Southeastern Conference play.
“Overflow of tears,” senior defensive end CeCe Jefferson said. “I’m not even going to try and hold it back. I love this place, you know what I mean? I grew up an hour away from here and everything about me is being a Florida Gator.
“Will you have me some tissue if you’re on the side? Some Kleenex because I’m going to get pretty messy. I might just leave my helmet and run down with my head down, but yeah, lots of tears Saturday.”
Florida has won 18 consecutive games against first-time opponents. The streak includes 14 wins against current Football Bowl Subdivision teams and four wins against current FCS teams, like Idaho.