After five weeks of play in the Big Ten and SEC, the Florida Citrus Sports Team Selection Committee might be a step closer to seeing which teams will be on the board for the Capital One Bowl in late December. Nothing in college football is a lock when you are dealing with the greatest regular season in all of sports, but both of our partner conferences are starting to take shape.
Here are some highlights from last weekend and Monday’s selection committee meeting.
Wisconsin is looking like the class of the conference at the moment after dismantling league newcomer Nebraska in primetime. In a performance that mirrored the Badgers’ upset of then-No. 1 Ohio State in Madison last season, Wisconsin fed off the energy of an electric home crowd and pulled away from the Cornhuskers in the second half.
Our representatives on the road reported some great conversations with Nebraska
fans at the game. Although the addition of the Huskers to the Big Ten presented
a unique situation for us this season, our reps (including President-Elect Bobby
Kuykendall) said everyone was excited about the opportunity to play in Orlando.
On the other side of the game Wisconsin fans seem to have their sights set above the Capital One Bowl on a second-consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. That’s completely understandable at this point in the season as the Badgers have looked like a championship team.
They have yet to hit the road, though, and will be tested in the second half
with games at Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois. Despite the BCS aspirations, Wisconsin fans and officials are always hospitable to our representatives and we value that relationship.
Sometimes our trips on the road are less about the current season and more about
building and preserving relationships for the future.
The Spartans, last year’s Capital One Bowl selection from the Big Ten, got a
landmark win over the reeling Buckeyes last week. Like Wisconsin, MSU fans and
officials know Orlando and are always great to our reps on the road. We’ll know
more about this year’s team in the next five weeks: Michigan, Wisconsin, at
Nebraska, Minnesota, at Iowa.
Wolverines fans might be as excited for the prospect of Orlando as the
Cornhuskers. Our reps in Ann Arbor for their 58-0 pasting of Minnesota reported
back that a number of fans went out of their way to ask about the Capital One
Bowl and Michigan’s chances this year. UM currently stands atop the Legends
Division with their 5-0 record, but they might have the toughest second half of
any Big Ten team, with road games at Michigan State, Iowa and Illinois and home
contests against Nebraska and Ohio State to close the year.
We saw a similar situation unfold in the SEC last weekend where a game between
two Top-15 teams ended with a decisive victory. Alabama crushed Florida in more
ways than one as 2011 Capital One Bowl MVP Courtney Upshaw took Gator
quarterback John Brantley out of the game before halftime. For the Crimson Tide,
all roads lead to their Nov. 5 showdown with LSU in Tuscaloosa to determine the
position of power in the SEC West. Meanwhile, Florida meets LSU on the road this
week without Brantley, and a once-promising season could get away from them
Not to be forgotten in the SEC West, Auburn and Arkansas both turned in stunning
comeback wins. They meet this week as ranked opponents for the first time in our
Capital One Bowl Game of the Week. Auburn’s upset of South Carolina gave the
Tigers a boost and also opened the door in the SEC East, with four teams tied at
just one loss apiece.
Last weekend, our representatives met with fans at South Carolina, Georgia and
Tennessee, who all talked about how much they’d like to come to Orlando. On a
previous weekend, a Volunteer official recalled Steve Spurrier’s famous slight
against UT, saying “if Tennessee makes it to the Capital One Bowl, you can spell
‘citrus’ any way you like!” Meanwhile, the Gamecocks haven’t been to
Orlando since 1975 and have told our reps that they think this is their year.