GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida bounced back nicely Saturday with a thorough win over South Carolina, but the national perception of the team hasn’t recovered quite as well.

The Gators checked in at No. 23 in the third installment of the College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday night.

Florida (7-2, 5-2 SEC) had checked in at No. 11 in the first CFP rankings two weeks ago before a humbling 31-10 loss at Arkansas dropped them out entirely.

They also fell 12 spots in the AP Top 25 poll after the loss, moving back up one spot this week to No. 21 following that 20-7 win over the Gamecocks.

It’s hard to ignore, though, that the Gators have lost by double figures to their two toughest opponents — Tennessee and Arkansas, both on the road — while their best win is against a 6-4 Georgia team.

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Where Florida is ranked

The Gators are No. 23, behind four other SEC teams. Alabama, of course, is atop the rankings, Auburn is 15th, LSU is 16th and Tennessee is 19th.

What it means

The Gators wouldn’t seem to have much of a path to the College Football Playoff.

In a best case scenario, in which they close out with road wins over LSU and Florida State and then topple No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game, they’d still be a two-loss team in a crowded field of contenders.

Florida’s next game

That said, the Gators still have plenty to play for as a win at LSU on Saturday clinches a second-straight SEC East title for the program.

If they lose, they would need Tennessee to stumble against either Missouri or Vanderbilt to claim the division crown.

That’s the main prize at stake this weekend for Florida, but

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