Coach to mull Gators’ chances ‘after we win’ SEC

  • Covers the SEC.
  • Joined ESPN in 2012.
  • Graduate of Auburn University.

Florida coach Dan Mullen said whether his team can reach the College Football Playoff with two losses is ultimately out of his control, but that didn’t stop him from projecting confidence heading into a showdown with No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

“We’ll think about that on Saturday night after we win,” Mullen said Thursday of the potential debate.

Florida is coming off a home loss to unranked LSU last weekend, but the Gators dropped only one spot to No. 7 in the CFP rankings.

“I think it showed respect for us and for this league, the quality of the opponents in this league, the grind and the demand of playing,” Mullen said of the ranking. “This is our 11th SEC game in a season. I think that’s certainly a challenge. Other conferences haven’t been through that.”

Mullen took care to say that he wasn’t knocking other teams, but it was yet another veiled shot at the Big Ten and No. 4 Ohio State, which has played and won five games so far this season.

After Saturday’s loss, Mullen opined that “the best thing to do would have been to play less games because you seem to get rewarded for not playing this year.”

Florida’s only other loss is to No. 5 Texas A&M on the road in College Station.

“I mean, obviously I’m not knocking other teams or other schools,” Mullen said Thursday, “but a team that has played [6 or 7 games] is going to be fresher, healthier this late in the season and probably have more depth than a team that’s on Game 11, that is trying to have to walk through early in the week because … guys are banged up. You’re trying to keep everybody healthy.

“I think everybody that knows the game of football understands that. People that really know the game of football understand that. That would be my guess. I don’t know. That would be a question for the committee.”

For his part, Alabama coach Nick Saban sidestepped the debate about whether the SEC would be deserving of having two teams make the playoff, regardless of the outcome of the conference championship.

Texas A&M, which plays unranked Tennessee on Saturday, also figures into the conversation.

“Man, I don’t really like to speculate on things like that,” Saban said. “The thing that we want to try to do is play our best so that we can determine our fate and our future by how we perform on the field, probably not have to leave it up to other people who have a very, very difficult task — especially in a year like this where everybody didn’t play the same number of games, didn’t play out-of-conference games in most cases.

“It’s a very difficult task. We understand that. But we also respect the people that have to make it. We’re just hopeful we play well enough to get an opportunity to play in the playoffs.”

The CFP will announce its final rankings on Sunday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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