Florida vs Virginia
When: 8:00 PM ET, Monday, December 30, 2019
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
CAPITAL ONE ORANGE BOWL STORYLINES
- The paths of Florida’s Dan Mullen and Virginia’s Bronco Mendenhall first crossed when the latter was tasked with trying to stop the former in the annual “Holy War” rivalry game between Utah and BYU in 2003. The stakes will be slightly different 16 years later as the seventh-ranked Gators and 25th-ranked Cavaliers square off Monday, Dec. 30, in the Orange Bowl in Miami. Florida is eyeing its second consecutive New Year’s Six bowl game victory, while Virginia is seeking its first major bowl victory since 1995.
- Despite getting routed 62-17 by No. 3 Clemson in the ACC championship game, the Cavaliers have reached the nine-win mark for the first time since 2007 and are on the brink of their first 10-win season since 1989. Virginia’s chances of accomplishing the latter lie heavily on the dual-threat ability of second-team All-ACC quarterback Bryce Perkins. He broke the single-season school record for total offense that he set last year with an ACC-best 3,960 yards – the seventh-best total in the country.
- The Gators are 3-0 in their previous three Orange Bowl appearances, winning each game by at least 15 points, and claimed the 2008 BCS National Championship in their last postseason visit to Miami. Florida posted three shutouts in 2019 en route to finishing with the eighth-best scoring defense in the nation (14.4 points) and 10th-best total defense (299 yards per game). All-SEC linebacker Jonathan Greenard headlines the unit after leading the league with 8.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida -14
ABOUT FLORIDA (10-2): The Gators’ most dynamic offensive threat is sophomore Kyle Pitts, who was an all-conference selection after becoming the first Florida player to catch 50 passes (51) while finishing the regular season with a team-high 610 yards and five touchdowns – leading all SEC tight ends in each category. Senior linebacker David Reese II garnered second-team All-SEC honors after tallying a team-high 89 tackles – a total that ranked sixth in the conference and included three games with at least 10 stops. Junior cornerback CJ Henderson landed on the All-SEC first team after finishing fourth in the conference with 11 pass breakups, but the Jim Thorpe award semifinalist and Miami native opted to declare for the NFL Draft earlier this month and will not play.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (9-4): Perkins, who set two more school records by accounting for 35 touchdowns and throwing for 3,215 yards, threw for 266 yards against Clemson – the most allowed by the Tigers in 2019. The Cavaliers’ lone All-ACC selection, receiver/returner Joe Reed, will play versus the Gators after sitting out against Clemson due to an undisclosed injury; the senior (team-high marks of 70 receptions and six TD catches), is the program’s all-time leader in kick return yardage (3,010) and kick return scores (four). Hasise Dubois (65 catches for a team-high 979 yards) stepped up with a career-high 10 receptions for 130 yards and a score against Clemson and has recorded at least 130 receiving yards three times this season, including in each of his last two games.
PREDICTION: Florida 35, Virginia 20