At #10 in initial CFP rankings, Gators control their own destiny to national championship

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History has proven that hell will freeze over before a one loss SEC Champion is denied the opportunity to play for a national championship. And if that pattern continues to hold this year, Jim McElwain’s Gators will be playing for a national championship this year should they win out.

That’s a big IF, of course, so the Gators have to take the “one week at a time” approach. Vanderbilt’s defense isn’t a joke. FSU isn’t really that good, but that game always has me worried. And the SEC Championship Game opponent will certainly provide a tough challenge. All I’m saying is that should they take the one game at a time approach, ride it successfully to an undefeated November and an SEC Championship Game, they are guaranteed to be rewarded with the sport’s ultimate prize.

The College Football Playoff selection committee unveiled their first rankings last night, the top ten of which looked like this: Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Baylor, Michigan State, TCU, Iowa and then Florida. The Gators are the third highest ranked one loss team, with only Alabama and Notre Dame ahead of them. This suggests that the committee puts a lot of stock into the fact that Florida lost on the road to an LSU team they have ranked #2. Compare that with one loss teams like Oklahoma and FSU, who lost to teams in Texas and Georgia Tech that may not even make a bowl game. Oklahoma and FSU are ranked 15 and 16, respectively. These are the teams that need to win out and get help. Not Florida.

And don’t be fooled by the fact that there are nine teams ahead of the Gators in the pecking order, either. That top nine is about to cannibalize itself. Baylor and TCU have to play each other; one of them has to fall. Ohio State and Michigan State play. There goes another one. And the winner of that has to play Iowa in the B1G Championship Game, so that’s three teams ahead of Florida that are guaranteed to lose. LSU and Alabama play. That’s four. Oh, and then if Florida does indeed win out, that means they will have beaten the winner of that Alabama-LSU game in Atlanta. So right there, you have five teams ranked ahead of Florida that are guaranteed to lose.

That puts Florida at #5 in the rankings automatically. That is, of course, assuming that Florida doesn’t leapfrog other teams ahead of them regardless of what they do by winning the SEC Championship and killing two birds with one stone. Taking home the SEC Title would give the Gators the nation’s most impressive win, as beating the Alabama-LSU winner is a feat the likes of which only Clemson can claim (by beating Notre Dame… but that was at home, while the SEC Championship is in Atlanta) and would also make the Gators meet the committee’s top criteria of being a conference champion. So… yeah, they’ll jump some other teams if this happens. Guaranteed.

So we can quit worrying about rooting for FSU to beat Clemson so that the Seminoles are more highly regarded when they presumably lose in the Swamp and so that Clemson has a loss. Florida doesn’t need that to happen. Yes, this team must continue to take things one game at a time. All I’m saying is that if they do, things will work themselves out ahead of them as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow.