Nov 16, 2017

CFP Poll Week 3: What It Means For The Citrus Bowl

The College Football Playoff released its latest rankings Tuesday night, giving Florida Citrus Sports its best chance yet to project which teams could be visiting Orlando for the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 at Camping World Stadium.

After a bonkers weekend that saw No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Notre Dame both fall on the road, the CFP poll has a decidedly different look than it did in its first and second iterations this season. Further, the current inclusion of two ACC teams — Miami and Clemson — and no Big Ten teams among the top four could potentially have a significant impact on the programs available for selection by the Citrus Bowl this December.

A Camping World Bowl participant last year, Miami is one of two ACC teams ranked in the top four of the latest CFP poll.

Of course, the Hurricanes and Tigers have each already clinched their respective divisions and will be meeting in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 2 regardless of what happens during the final two weeks of the regular season. And while it’s not impossible that the ACC champ and runner up could both compete in the playoff, the assumption by most is that the loser of that game will find itself on the outside of the top four looking in.

There are other factors that could drastically change the look of the final CFP poll down the stretch, as well — not the least of which are additional conference championship games looming in the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. But as long as we can all agree that we’re breaking things down based on the Nov. 14 rankings in a vacuum, let’s take a look at what they mean for the Citrus Bowl game:

For starters, the CFP can’t match two teams from the same conference in a semifinal, so No. 1 Alabama would face No. 3 Miami in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 2 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma would meet in the Rose Bowl.

With the Rose and Sugar Bowls both hosting semis, most of the New Year’s Six conference tie-ins would no longer need to be satisfied, however No. 19 NC State — the highest-ranked non-CFP team from the ACC — would be assigned to the Orange Bowl due to the game’s contract with the conference. Their opponent would be the highest-ranked non-CFP team among the Big Ten, SEC and Notre Dame, which, in this case, would be No. 5 Wisconsin.

Last season, Louisville became the first ACC team to play in the Citrus Bowl since 1992. Could another ACC representative be appearing in the game this season?

From there, it’s up to the CFP committee to decide who goes where, but at the very least, we know which teams would likely be involved.

As of Tuesday, No. 15 UCF is the highest-ranked Group of 5 team and would likely be headed to either the Fiesta or Peach Bowl as a result. The final five New Year’s Six spots would then be divvied up among No. 6 Auburn, No. 7 Georgia, No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 9 Ohio State and the Pac-12 champ, which we’ll say is No. 11 USC, which has already clinched the Pac-12 South.

What’s that mean for us?

Well, when a Big Ten team goes to the Orange Bowl, the Citrus Bowl replaces its traditional Big Ten pick with the top non-Playoff selection from the ACC. If you’ll recall, last year’s Citrus Bowl featured an ACC participant (Louisville) for the first time since 1992 because Michigan played in the Orange Bowl. With Wisconsin playing in the Orange Bowl in this week’s hypothetical, we’d be welcoming an ACC team again.

There are no ACC teams ranked behind NC State in the current CFP Top 25, but if we use the AP poll as a reference, Virginia Tech (the top team in the “others receiving votes” category) and Georgia Tech (tied for fifth in the others receiving votes category) would be next in line to represent the ACC.

The Hokies are actually coming off a loss to the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta in Week 11, and have Pittsburgh and Virginia left on their schedule. Georgia Tech visits Duke this weekend before wrapping up the regular season at home against rival Georgia.

As for the ACC’s opponent? As of this week, No. 16 Mississippi State is the highest-ranked SEC team outside the CFP series of bowls, followed by No. 20 LSU. So for the moment, the Bulldogs and Tigers have to be considered the leaders in the clubhouse. LSU visits Tennessee this week before hosting Texas A&M in its regular season finale, while Mississippi State takes a trip to Arkansas before closing things out with their annual Egg Bowl rivalry game against Ole Miss.

As always, there are several remaining games that could potentially turn the CFP poll — and, in turn, the Citrus Bowl selection process — on its head.

In one of many examples, if Wisconsin or another Big Ten team gets into the top four, it could open the door for an SEC team or Notre Dame to play in the Orange Bowl, which would lead to the Citrus Bowl drawing from the Big Ten instead of the ACC. And there are plenty of other minor changes to the poll that could have major implications with the Citrus Bowl matchup.

So before we get too carried away, it’s probably best to just hang tight and see what happens. And if you’re looking for a couple important games to keep an eye on this weekend, start with Wisconsin-Michigan and Wake Forest-NC State.

The next round of CFP rankings will be released on Tuesday, Nov. 21. For a look at what members of the media are currently projecting for the Citrus Bowl, check out our weekly projections roundup.

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