It’s Florida vs. Virginia at Orange Bowl

Florida coach Dan Mullen pumps his fist to the crowd after the win over Florida State at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Nov. 30. The Gators beat the Seminoles 40-17. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

[Updated 8 p.m. 12-8-19 with more Mullen quotes, UVA coach] For the Florida Gators, there should have been no doubt, no drama, no sense of nervousness watching the College Football Playoff selection show Sunday. After LSU beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday night, the Gators knew exactly where they were headed — the Dec. 30 Orange Bowl to play Virgina.

 That matchup became official Sunday afternoon when the New Year’s Six bowls were announced.

 Ranked No. 9 in the CFP standings, right where they were heading into championship Saturday, the 10-2 Gators will play No. 24 Virginia on Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

 “We’re looking forward to our trip to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl and a second consecutive New Year’s Six Bowl game,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “Our players and staff have done a great job all year focusing on how we could get better every day, along with developing our mental and physical toughness throughout the year. We finished strong and put ourselves in a position to win 11 games.

 “Our staff has been busy recruiting, and the team is preparing for final exams this week.”

 While the Gators were spectators for Saturday’s games, the Cavaliers (9-4) were getting crushed 62-17 by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

 It’s a second consecutive appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game under Mullen. UF routed Michigan 41-14 in last year’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. 

  “We are honored to accept a bid to play in the Orange Bowl,” UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “South Florida is an important region for our program, and home for many Gators. It is rewarding to see all of the work by Coach Mullen, the staff and players pay off with a second consecutive New Year’s Six bowl, and it will be a great week in Miami for our players, staff and fans.”

 The Gators will be playing without standout junior cornerback CJ Henderson, who declared for the NFL draft Friday and said he would not be playing in the bowl game.

 Mullen said Sunday night he’s talked to some other draft-eligible players and at this time does not anticipate any others skipping the bowl game.

 “As guys make decisions about their future, the most important thing is to be either all in or all out,” Mullen said. “The majority of guys I’ve met with, I haven’t met with anybody else that I think is even pondering it. We’ll see moving forward, you never know how things shake out.. 

 “Everybody else was at practice Saturday and I think everyone else plans on playing in the game. The most important thing is that guys are all in, all out on their decision, they have no regrets in what they do. 

 “Hopefully, the guys really want to finish the season the right way and enjoy playing in a big-time game.”

 Whoever shows up, or doesn’t show up for the Gators, Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall is expecting a stern challenge from UF.

 “I see their record and I see their ranking, so I expect a great test from Florida,” Mendenhall said. 

  The Orange Bowl has been good to the Gators. They are looking to run their record to 4-0 in the prestigious bowl game. UF beat Georgia Tech 27-12 in 1967, defeated Syracuse 31-10 in 1999 and crushed Maryland 56-23 in 2002. The Gators also won the 2009 BCS National Championship Game over Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl site.

 This will be only the second time the Gators and Cavaliers will meet on the football field. The only other meeting took place in 19059, with UF routing Virginia 55-10 in Gainesville.

 The Gators have had two consecutive double-digit-win seasons under Mullen. UF has not done that back-to-back seasons since 2008-09. Mullen is the first head coach in school history two win 10 games in each of his first two seasons.


  1. An Orange Bowl invitation is a fitting end to the Gators’ 2019 season. However, jumping Oregon 7 spots to #6 for beating that Utah fraud and keeping Baylor at #7 and Wisconsin at #8, still ranked ahead of the Gators despite their losses yesterday is an insult to UF, the SEC and our intelligence.

    • StL, you just succinctly said here, the same thing that I’ve been thinking and saying about the Committee’s treatment of UF. The difference is, when I say it, it turns into a dissertation on how I despise the concept of the Selection Committee!

      • Well Joe, I believe this issue will be “resolved” in 2025, when the CFP field is expanded to 8 teams. All the Power 5 conference champs will be guaranteed a playoff spot then (regardless of record) and all NY-6 bowls will be guaranteed a playoff game (4 in round 1 and 2 in round 2.)

        The CFP Committee’s damage will be limited to selecting one Group of 5 conference champ and two wild card teams from among the Power 5 conferences and Notre Dame. THAT will still create plenty of arguments!

        For the next 5 years, however, I’m afraid we’ll just have to grin and bear their bias.

        • StL, I know your desire to preserve the meaning of the regular season and the level of excellence that should be required to play for a national championship. I agree with you, although I’m not opposed to the occasional 3-loss conference champion being included. If that team runs the gauntlet of undefeated and 1-loss teams to win the title, they’ve demonstrated excellence, imo. The other teams presumably had an easier path through the 3-loss team and would still have to win the same number of games to win the championship. If they fall, so be it. They had the option of winning.

          I don’t necessarily think expansion to 8 teams is needed, but if they do, I’ll watch. Whatever it takes to rid us of this unnecessary and, imo corrupt, Committee, I’m for.

          Merry Christmas, my Gator friend!

          • Merry Christmas to you and your family too Joe. And a prosperous and happy New Year celebrating the last Gator victory of 2019 in grand style!

  2. CFP poll is for seeding playoff and NY6 bowls. I expect Florida to be 6 or 5 in the final AP poll. Maybe even #4 depending how bad LSU beats Oklahoma in the playoffs and how well we show against Virginia. The AP has shown more love for the Gators.

  3. LSU is 13-0. Name the ONLY team they played that had a lead on them in the 2nd half. Easy answer.
    Name the team that came closest to beating them than any other team (Bama) included.’
    And it’s fun to think of “what if” Trask doesn’t throw that pick with the Gators at the LSU 10 and looking to tie the game at 35-all. If onlyl. Oh well, it’s still a good season with Oranges ready to be peeled.

  4. Coach Mullen sounds the same way that I feel about a player who chooses to quit on his team-disappointed. I hate calling players out, but I also hate watching a talented player mail it in on the field. It’s difficult to say, but I can’t help but wonder if a little more effort would have made a big difference in the UGA and LSU games. A pick six, interception, or just a pass break-up could have easily had us sitting in the 4 spot right now. Tim Tebow’s vocal leadership inspired the entire team to buy in. Let’s hope we can develop that kind of leadership again.
    This is a controversial position, for sure, and I welcome the opinion of anyone who disagrees.

    • Effort is one thing I don’t think you question when it comes to C.J. Henderson. I remember more than one occasion where he came from way behind and on the other side of the field to save a TD.

      Am I disappointed that he is choosing not to participate in the bowl game? Sure. Is it something I would do were I in the same position? I don’t know; it’s hard to say when you are talking about the kind of money he will be in line for as a 1st round draft choice (Bouffant Mel Kiper has him at #15 on his board).

      At any rate, while he probably did not have as good a year this year as he has in the past two, he’s still a great Gator, and I wish him well.

      Kair Elam, COME ON DOWN!!!

      Go Gators, 11-2 is within your reach!