Clear-eyed Gator fan David Wunderlich thinks it’s a mixed bag.
In some ways, the new format will be good for Mullen. As long as Nick Saban stays on at Alabama and Kirby Smart keeps recruiting at the level he does now, it’s going to be difficult for Mullen to start winning SEC titles regularly unless the new facilities will make as big a difference to recruiting as he seems to think they will. Despite hand wringing from some corners, winning conference championships still has a lot of currency. Winning divisions, not so much — just ask Jim McElwain — but conference titles never stopped mattering so much with possible exceptions for juggernauts that expect to compete for national titles annually like Alabama and Ohio State.
It will be easier to compete for a spot in the expanded playoff, though it’ll still be a notable feat to get in. Indeed, Florida is one of only a handful of schools that would’ve made the 12-team format every year since 2018, and the list doesn’t even include Saban’s Crimson Tide. Routinely making the latter half of the top ten sounds more appealing when it gets you into the playoff instead of those somewhat devalued New Year’s 6 games.
At first making the 12-team playoff will carry meaning enough, but that too will lose a little luster over time just as the major bowls did going from the BCS to New Year’s 6…
It’s easy then to see where this might go in five years if Mullen continues to put most of his teams in the bottom half of the top ten. If he can get into the 6-8 slots regularly, he’ll been seen positively for delivering home playoff games and not leaving it up to chance whether the Gators will have to play snow games. If he’s more often below the 8 spot, then it’ll be seen as like going to a non-semifinal Peach or Cotton Bowl now: better than the alternative, but not a big boasting point.
It’s going to be a boost for the best SEC team that misses the championship game. In some years, that will be Florida, but at least as things look now, more often it’ll probably be a program from the West. That being said, if he’s around long enough for the next round of expansion, Mullen’s probably home free as a playoff coach. I hope Florida fans are as happy with that as we’ll probably be.