Ralph D. Russo
AP College Football Writer
The headline on the story at AL.com read: “Will Florida be able to score vs. Alabama in Atlanta?”
The 18th-ranked Gators are 17 1/2-point underdogs in the Southeastern Conference championship on Saturday against the No. 2 Crimson Tide. In the minds of many, their chances are even worse than that.
But let’s just say Florida wins.
The most significant fallout would be to the SEC and the College Football Playoff. Alabama would most certainly be out after losing to a team that lost last week 27-2 at home to Florida State and needed overtime to get by Florida Atlantic University the week before. Did we mention that 9-7 home victory against Vanderbilt?
As SEC champions, the Gators would play in the Sugar Bowl. Bad news for Mississippi. The Rebels are in the clubhouse at No. 13 in the playoff rankings and in good shape to get to the Sugar Bowl as the highest-ranked team after Alabama, assuming the Tide wins the SEC and makes the playoff.
How far would Alabama fall with a loss? Maybe all the way out of the New Year’s Six games. The Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl have three at-large spots available, with a fourth reserved for the best Group of Five conference champion (most likely the American Athletic Conference winner).
Barring upsets, the loser of the Big Ten title game between Iowa and Michigan State, and Ohio State will fill the Rose Bowl and one at-large spot.
Notre Dame at No. 8 and Florida State at No. 9 are primed to get the other two at-large bids.
Alabama could either bump the Big Ten loser, Notre Dame or Florida State out of a New Year’s Six game or pack for Florida and a trip to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on Jan. 1.
No. 1 Clemson (minus 5) vs. No. 8 North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina
Last two meetings: Tigers 109, Tar Heels 73, both Clemson wins … CLEMSON 38-31.
No. 2 Alabama (minus 17 1/2) vs. No. 18 Florida at Atlanta
Derrick Henry makes last Heisman statement against a very good Gators defense … ALABAMA 27-7.
Big Ten championship
No. 4 Iowa (plus 3 1/2) vs. No. 5 Michigan State at Indianapolis
Who has it better than Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, watching his teams play into the playoff … MICHIGAN STATE 28-23.
No. 7 Stanford (minus 4 1/2) vs. No. 24 Southern California at Santa Clara, California
Cardinal still have playoff hopes and RB Christian McCaffrey is in the Heisman Trophy conversation … STANFORD 31-28.
American Athletic Conference championship
No. 20 Temple (plus 6 1/2) at No. 17 Houston
Winner is Peach Bowl-bound … HOUSTON 42-28.
Conference USA championship
Southern Miss (plus 7 1/2) at Western Kentucky
Golden Eagles closed with six straight wins, averaging 48.2 points per game … UPSET SPECIAL, SOUTHERN MISS 48-42.
Mountain West championship
Air Force (plus 4) at San Diego State
Falcons bidding for first conference championship since 1998; Aztecs looking for first outright title since winning the WAC in 1986 … AIR FORCE 24-21.
Bowling Green (minus 12 1/2) vs. Northern Illinois at Detroit
Third straight year the Falcons and Huskies have met in the MAC title game; split the first two … BOWLING GREEN 42-27.
Texas (plus 20 1/2) at No. 12 Baylor
Bears need a victory to lock up a Sugar Bowl bid … BAYLOR 45-20.
Last week’s record: 16-6 straight; 9-11 vs. spread.
Overall: 202-72; 133-129-3.
Upset specials: 4-10.
Best bets: 5-7.