With Muschamp spending his final day as Florida head coach in Saturday’s loss to the Seminoles, Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin now moves into the interim head coach position through the bowl game.
After falling two wins shy of bowl eligibility last season, the Gators will welcome any bowl this season. But where will they travel to in late December or early January? It’s not as clear-cut as it usually is.
Here are the bowls that the Southeastern Conference has tie ins for Capital One Bowl (Orlando), Outback Bowl (Tampa), Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Nashville), TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (Jacksonville), AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis), Texas Bowl (Houston), Belk Bowl (Charlotte), Birmingham Bowl (Birmingham) and the Duck Commander Independence Bowl (Shreveport).
There are also potential tie ins with the Allstate Sugar Bowl or Discover Orange Bowl, but those two can obviously be ignored for Florida’s purposes. It’s also probably safe to take the Texas Bowl out of consideration since it will likely be an SEC West team filling that one.
We also have to take into account Florida’s rank in the SEC. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri and Texas A&M are all more appealing draws than the Gators based on their success this season. Others are debatable. Arkansas is going to a bowl game for the first time since 2011 and Tennessee will be going for the first time since 2010.
Bowl committees could view those fan bases as more likely to travel since Florida is in the middle of a coaching search while the other two have head coaches with job security that are improving the programs.
The three Florida bowls with SEC ties always make sense for the Gators, but that might not be the case this season. The Gator Bowl is the only one that could happen, but even that feels like a stretch this year because of the depth in the SEC this year with every team except Kentucky and Vanderbilt are bowl eligible.
The most likely spots for Florida look to be Birmingham, Charlotte or Shreveport. Memphis or Nashville could still be an option, too, but Arkansas and Tennessee seem like more logical fits there.
The Duck Commander Independence Bowl in Shreveport and the Belk Bowl in Charlotte both feature games that will be ACC vs. SEC. There are a couple matchups there that could be interesting for Florida. Boston College, led by former Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy, would be a bowl game full of storylines. The instate rivalry with Miami, who also ended the year with six wins, could also provide an intriguing game.
The Birmingham Bowl has no tie ins for the team that will face an SEC member, but multiple bowl projections stick Memphis in that game.
There’s still a chance that Florida gets pushed into a bowl game with no SEC tie in. Having 12 bowl eligible teams will force some SEC team to go out of the bowls tied to the conference, and Florida could be that team. Jerry Palm of CBS recently projected Florida to the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit to face off with Virginia Tech on December 26.