WHO: Florida (10-2) vs. Virginia (9-4)
WHAT: The 86th Capital One Orange Bowl
WHEN: December 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL
BUY TICKETS: Click here
THE SKINNY: The last time Florida won the Orange Bowl, Steve Spurrier was the head coach and the Gators were in the thick of the national title conversation all season long (2001). Florida may be getting closer to entering the national title conversation, and a victory in the Orange Bowl could see some momentum continue to build for the Gators in 2020.
Dan Mullen’s pass-heavy focus on offense has seen Kyle Trask come in and keep things moving with a talented group of receivers to throw to in every part of the field. Virginia’s defense was just eaten alive by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game and should be expected to cough up some big plays through the air once again against the Gators. The biggest target for Florida will be tight end Kyle Pitts. Arguably the best tight end in the nation despite what the Mackey Award had to say about it, Pitts is Florida’s leading receiver with 51 receptions for 610 yards and five touchdowns.
Virginia is merely in the game due to the ACC’s bowl agreement with the Orange Bowl guaranteeing a spot in the game for an ACC member. With Clemson off to the playoff, and now the national championship game, Virginia was the next best option to represent the conference in Miami. Don’t expect Bronco Mendenhall to be issuing any apologies for his team’s presence, though. Despite being over a two-touchdown underdog, this is a massive step in the right direction for a Virginia program that is continuing to improve over time with Mendenhall at the helm.
Virginia’s dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins will have a lot on his shoulders as the Gators will look to contain the impact Perkins has on the game. Florida is known to swarm quarterbacks (46.0 team sacks entering the Orange Bowl) but if Perkins can escape pressure and extend plays, Virginia will be able to move the football. How often will that happen will be the key. Over the course of a 60-minute game, it may be a little too much to ask of Perkins to give Virginia a shot to win in the end.
THE PICK: Florida 30, Virginia 16