Nov 21, 2017

CFP Poll Week 4: What It Means For The Citrus Bowl

You may have felt a bit of déjà vu when the College Football Playoff released its latest poll Tuesday night, as very little has changed following a Week 12 slate that was fairly light on upsets.

Still, the newest rankings give Florida Citrus Sports its most up-to-date look yet at the Top 25 and what it could mean for the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 at Camping World Stadium.

As always, we’ll start with the not-so-tacit acknowledgement that there’s still a ton of football left to play over the next two weeks — football that will almost certainly have a significant impact on these rankings by the time Selection Sunday hits us on Dec. 3.

For example, No. 2 Miami and No. 3 Clemson still have to play for the ACC championship on Dec. 2 in Charlotte. And while it’s not necessarily a given that the winner of that game will be the only one of the two to reach the CFP semifinals, that’s the assumption most prognosticators are making.

If one of those ACC powers drops out of the Top 4, it could open a spot for No. 5 Wisconsin — assuming, of course, that the Badgers top Ohio State in the Big Ten title game in Indy. And if the Big Ten doesn’t send a team to the Orange Bowl, that changes the calculus for the Citrus Bowl (and, by extension, the Camping World Bowl, as well).

But as long as we can all agree that we’re breaking things down based on the Nov. 21 rankings strictly 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 Clemson in a CFP championship rematch at the Sugar Bowl — the ‘Canes and Tigers swapped places in this week’s rankings — while No. 2 Miami 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. 25 Virginia Tech — 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. The Hokies’ opponent would be the highest-ranked non-CFP team among the Big Ten, SEC and Notre Dame, which, in this case, would be Wisconsin.

Tech taking North Carolina State’s place in this hypothetical Orange Bowl following the Wolfpack’s loss to Wake Forest is the most notable change from last week’s poll to this week’s. From there, it’s up to the CFP committee to decide who goes where among the rest of the New Year’s Six bowls, 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. (The Trojans will play Washington State in the Pac-12 title game if the Cougars beat Washington in the Apple Cup on Saturday; if the Huskies win, Stanford represents the Pac-12 North.)

As for what that means to the Citrus Bowl, it really all boils down to who plays in the Orange Bowl. Because 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. When that happens — as it did last year — Florida Citrus Sports ends up with the top two non-CFP picks from the ACC and can distribute them to the Citrus Bowl and Camping World Bowl.

There are no ACC teams ranked behind Virginia Tech in the current CFP Top 25, but if we use the AP poll as a reference, NC State and Wake Forest (fourth and sixth in the “others receiving votes” category, respectively) would be the top two teams in line to represent the ACC. The Citrus Bowl and Camping World Bowl would then arm-wrestle contest to decide who goes where.

(We’re kidding, of course. Our orange might have arms but he’s not about to step to an RV.)

As for the ACC’s opponent? As of this week, No. 14 Mississippi State is the highest-ranked SEC team outside the CFP series of bowls, followed by No. 18 LSU. So for the moment, the Bulldogs and Tigers have to be considered the leaders in the clubhouse. LSU hosts Texas A&M this week, while Mississippi State closes out the regular season with its annual Egg Bowl rivalry game against Ole Miss.

A Bulldogs loss in Starkville would certainly shake things up, as would any number of results that could play out in the Power 5 conferences over the next couple weeks.

In one of many, many examples, a Big Ten champ working its way in to the Top 4 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. Or if Notre Dame loses at Stanford this weekend and falls in the polls, it, too, could potentially be available for a Citrus Bowl selection.

So before we get too carried away, it’s probably best to just sit tight, enjoy rivalry weekend and see what happens. And if you’re looking for a couple important games to keep an eye on this weekend, our best advice is to start with the ones that everyone is already planning on watching anyway.

The next round of CFP rankings will be released on Tuesday, Nov. 28. Check back for our latest poll breakdown next week.

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