The college football season is drawing near, with less than three months between now and the first game of the 2014 season on August 27. So it’s only appropriate that bowl projections begin now, right?
Sporting News’ Bill Bender certainly believed so, unveiling his predictions Monday to much debate. Here are his projections for each of the FBS-level Florida Schools with a little analysis for each matchup:
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Florida vs. TCU
The Gators are coming off their first season without a bowl appearance since 1986. This season, however, Florida is primed to return to their place among college football’s premier programs in the ever-competitive SEC. The Gators are currently ranked No. 22 by ESPN’s Preseason Power Index Rating; TCU is ranked 36th.
Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl: Miami vs. South Carolina
They may be having trouble filling the stadium, but Miami still does a great job of bringing in top football talent from around the country. 2014 should be no different, putting them in position for a certain bowl bid. Bender’s projection of South Carolina presents an intriguing opponent as it’s tough to pinpoint what the Gamecocks will be post-Jadeveon Clowney. Steve Spurrier’s teams are always competitive, though, and could provide an exciting challenge for the Hurricanes.
Orange Bowl: Central Florida vs. Notre Dame
Could another strong year be ahead for UCF? Bender certainly thinks so. While they may not be competing for a shot at the National Championship, a spot in the Orange Bowl is still a very big deal. With Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson gone, there are major questions to be answered regarding their offense. However, George O’Leary is an underrated head football coach who has done a phenomenal job building UCF into a respectable program. He’ll have his team ready to contend in the American Athletic Conference.
Sugar Bowl (Playoff Semifinal): Florida State vs. Oregon
The defending National Champion Seminoles are legitimate contenders to repeat in 2014, and Bender’s projections show he believes that to be the case as well. However, he has them falling short to Oregon in the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Sugar Bowl. Should we get this matchup, it will be a blessing for college football fans with high-powered offensive play led by two top NFL prospects at the quarterback position in FSU’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.