Florida vs. Virginia: Orange Bowl Storylines

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Florida head coach Dan Mullen speaks during a news conference Sunday for the Orange Bowl in Fort Lauderdale. (AP Photo/Mario Houben)

Orange Bowl: Florida (10-2, No. 9 CFP) vs. Virginia (9-4, No. 24 CFP)

When: 8 p.m. today

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens

TV: ESPN. Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850.

Favorite: Gators by 14.5

Series record: Florida leads 1-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Gators can finish with 11 wins, which would be their highest total since 2012. They have a chance to finish in the Top Ten in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09. For the Cavaliers, a win would be biggest bowl victory in school history. They have chance to crack the AP Top 25 and finish the season ranked for first time since 2004.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Virginia: Bryce Perkins is one of two players in the nation with at least 3,000 yards passing and 700 rushing (the other is Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts). Perkins had 3,960 yards in total offense to set a school record for the second year in a row. He also holds single-season school records for yards passing and yards rushing by a quarterback.

Florida: Linebacker Jonathan Greenard led the Southeastern Conference in sacks (8 1/2) and tackles for a loss (14 1/2) despite missing two games because of an ankle injury. He’s part of a defense that allowed 14.4 points per game to rank eighth in the nation.

Sack pack(s)

 The way these two teams get after people on defense, this game could turn into a real sack exchange. A lot has been made over the past week about how tenacious and productive Virginia’s pass rush has been this season. The Cavs are sixth in the nation in sacks with 45, which is really good. But the Gators are one better. They rank No. 1 with 46 sacks. UF could be even more effective tonight with the return of defensive end Jabari Zuniga, the Gators’ second-best pass rusher behind Jon Greenard. But this will be a big challenge for the UF defensive front, because elusive UVA quarterback Bryce Perkins is hard to touch, much less sack.

Only Gators get out alive

 Down through the years, the Orange Bowl has been almost like a second home for the Gators, who are undefeated here, dating back to UF’s upset of Georgia Tech in the 1967 game. That 27-12 win was engineered by Steve Spurrier and running back Larry Smith, who had a 94-yard TD run. Spurrier was also part of the other two wins, coaching the Gators to the 31-10 win over Syracuse in 1999 and the 56-10 thrashing of Maryland in 2002, his last game as UF’s head coach. So, the Gators are 3-0 in the Orange Bowl — and 4-0 if you count UF’s victory over Oklahoma in the national title game in 2008 at the bowl site.

Cavs in rebound mode

 Coming off a humbling 62-17 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, the Cavaliers are determined to redeem themselves tonight. “We’ve had to learn from it,” junior linebacker Charles Snowden said. “Part of it is just pride, knowing that’s not who we are as a team, that’s not what we want to put on film, that’s not how we want to end our season. We know we’re a lot better than that. So to go out and compete on stage against a really good team, again, it’s just something we’re looking forward to to get that Clemson taste out of our mouth.”

KEY MATCHUPS

Kyle Trask’s passer rating of 159.24 is the highest at Florida since Tim Tebow led the nation at 164.2 in 2009. Virginia will try to keep him off balance with a pass rush that ranks sixth in the nation with a school-record 45 sacks. The Cavaliers could be in trouble if they can’t get to Trask — they’re allowing 23.4 points per game and gave up 62 to Clemson in their Atlantic Coast Conference title game loss.

Florida’s defense, all 11 players, vs. dual-threat Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins: Perkins is one of the most dynamic, most productive offensive players in college football. He’s pretty much been a one-man show the past two seasons, piling up the yards passing and running. As he goes, the Cavaliers go. If he struggles, UVA’s offense struggles. He has put together a memorable season in 2019. He’s one of only two players in the nation to pass for 3,000-plus yards and rush for 700-plus yards in 2019. The other is Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. Perkins is No. 1 in the ACC in total offense, with 3,960 yards. The Gators need to be aware of him at all times, and that means everybody, and they’re going to have to get him on the ground when he does slip out of the pocket, which he does so often. If the Gators can keep him in the pocket and prevent him from making multiple explosive plays, the chances of the Cavs’ pulling off the upset are seriously diminished.

FACTS & FIGURES

Gators have scored in NCAA-record 397 consecutive games. … Cavaliers are playing in third consecutive bowl game for first time since 2002-05. They reached the Atlantic Coast Conference title game for the first time but lost to Clemson, 62-17. … Nine of Virginia’s previous opponents this season went on bowl games. … Virginia is minus-3 in turnover differential. … Cavaliers’ Joe Reed is only player in nation with at least 500 yards receiving and 600 yards on kick returns. … Cavaliers are 1-8 at Hard Rock Stadium, including 0-3 in bowl games with losses by a combined 86 points. … Gators’ Josh Hammond is one of nine FBS players this year with both a 65-yard run and reception. … Florida cornerback CJ Henderson will skip the game, forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. … Only other meeting between teams was in 1959, when Gators won 55-10. … For the first time since 1993, four Gators have at least 35 catches and four touchdowns. The 150-yard receiving mark for the season has been surpassed by nine players, the most at Florida since at least 1990.

Tonight’s game questions

  1. Can the Florida defense prevent dynamic Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins from making explosive plays running the ball?
  2. Will Florida quarterback Kyle Trask have time to execute the passing game against what is usually a fierce Cavaliers’ pass rush?
  3. Will the Gators come out flat or fired up?
  4. Can the Gatos surprise everyone by establishing a ground game?
  5. Who wins the turnover battle?

Click back Wednesday for Andreu’s answers

Andreu’s pick

Florida 31, Virginia 20

(Season record: 10-2)

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. So, as Virginia quarterback Bryce ”Perkins goes so go the Virginia Cavs.” That didn’t work out too well for Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma (another 4 seed that got BLOWN OUT, see: Washington. And some people want ”8 teams?” No thanks!). Lastly, Florida spanked Marlyand in the HBC’s last game, 56-10. And Virginia isn’t too far away from Maryland. Both in the Orange Bowl, too. ”Signs, signs, everywhere signs.” Go Gators! CHOMP THE CAVS!

    • I’m with you all the way GI! We don’t need to diminish the prime value of our college football regular season by giving weak teams from second rate conferences a second bite at the apple in the CFP. I don’t care how much whining we get from the ESPN talking heads!

      Last year’s pretender was Notre Dame. This year Clemson’s superiority allowed them to complete an undefeated regular season in a really lousy ACC. That unblemished regular season record was their ticket to the CFP and they made the most of it against Ohio State on Saturday. Oklahoma got beat by a mediocre Kansas State, then won the mediocre Big 12 and got smoked by LSU. Washington would have fared no better against that buzzsaw!

      • Agree StLGator, totally! And the NY6 bowls, with all their ”storied history,” will end up just being a ”playoff spot for 8 teams, 4 games, with only 2 NY6 spots/bowls to go to the other 4-5 conf. runner-ups (see Penn State this year). It would be ”fubar” to mess with it anymore, in my opinion. Truthfully, there are may be only ”2-3 elite teams” at the end of the season (see: Clemson, LSU, and Ohio State -and look what happened to the Ohio St. Buckeyes). With the present CFP Final 4, there won’t be any ”undefeated Auburns” NOT playing for a championship this way. Go Gators!

  2. With our good team SEC talent level, this game should be similar to OU/LSU and UVA/Clemson results. A loss would be most embarrassing and a big win, on schedule.

    This being an ESPN game, I HOPE, Motor Mouth Herbstreit isn’t on the telecast. The OSU/Clemson game was horrible. Example, after Fields threw the final OSU TD, they repeated the play back over and over, explaining how great it was??? It was just an average open receiver pass play, nothing special. Then when Fields threw to a wide open Clemson defender, the excesses immediately began….how obvious stupid was that!!! Maybe he’s considered the most popular color guy? But I’d rather have anybody else.

  3. Anything that CAN happen eventually WILL happen. That’s just probability and statistics (boring stuff, I know.)

    However, there could come a fall someday when the stars align and all the Power 5 champs and/or ND finish their regular seasons undefeated. Should that day EVER come, I’ll join the chorus of folks advocating for CFP expansion to eight teams.

    Until then, leave things as they are. College Football, BY FAR, has the most meaningful and entertaining regular season of any sport in America. Why mess with THAT???