The Gators are headed to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl against ACC opponent Virginia.
Florida will look to win its second straight New Year’s Six bowl game.
The following are our staff predictions for this year’s game.
Florida has the clear advantage in this one and that’s why they enter Monday’s contest as a 14-point favorite.
Virginia will rely heavily on the playmaking ability of their dual threat quarterback, Bryce Perkins. As Perkins goes, so goes the Virginia offense.
The problem is that Florida will be more than ready for anything the Cavaliers can throw at them. The Gators will have Jabari Zuniga back to full health and Jonathan Greenard has been a nightmare for opposing offenses this season.
Even with the absence of CJ Henderson, Florida boasts one of the best secondaries in the nation and should challenge the Cavaliers receiving corps on every play. On the opposite side of the ball, I expect Kyle Trask to continue his dominance and bring home the Orange Bowl Championship. Gators win big: 42-18.
While some have called the Gators’ offense one-dimensional due to their inability to run the football well, the Cavaliers’ situation is a little worse.
They aren’t just one-dimensional — they’re a one-man show. With Bryce Perkins taking snaps for Virginia, the Cavaliers will utilize him on a pretty consistent basis.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga will be licking their chops at the idea of getting their hands on Perkins — who stands behind a mediocre offensive line.
Offensively, Kyle Trask and the gang shouldn’t have to change their game plan too much. Though, the offensive line will have to execute as the Cavs have tallied 45 sacks on the year — which is just one less than Florida’s 46.
In all, though, this is Virginia’s game to win and Florida’s game to lose. There is little intrigue about this matchup, and it threatens pulling the Gators into complacency. However, thus far, Mullen has done a great job in keeping his guys competitive regardless of the game. And behind his team, Mullen will finish his second year back in Gainesville 21-5 with his second-straight NY6 win with a 37-10 win over Virginia.
Virginia comes into this game with a record of 9-4, and a national ranking of 24th. In my opinion, UVA had a rather easy schedule having only played two ranked teams, a 15-point loss to Notre Dame and a blowout loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship game.
Florida, on the other hand, has played one of the tougher schedules in the country. Thanks to the SEC’s dominance of college football, the Gators were still able to outscore opponents 396-173 this season. I expect the Gators defense to control this game, like they have all season. I am not sure how deserving Virginia is to be in a New Year’s Six bowl game, but I think Florida gets a convincing 45-7 win to finish the season 11-2, making Dan Mullen 21-5 in his first two seasons in Gainesville.
At No. 24 in the country, Virginia is more talented than its ranking leads on. Yes, UVA had head-scratching losses to Miami and Louisville as well as 62-17 spanking at the hands of Clemson in the ACC Championship. But the Cavaliers hung with No. 14 Notre Dame in South Bend, and they’re led by some explosive offensive talents.
Bryce Perkins is one of the most underrated players in the country. The senior quarterback leads the ACC in total offense (304.6 yards per game), amassing 745 rushing yards (over 200 more than UF leader Lamical Perine) and 3215 passing yards this season.
His three-headed monster at receiver, seniors Hasise DuBois and Joe Reed and junior Terrell Jana, account for 69 percent of Virginia’s receiving yards and each have 65 receptions or more.
At 6-foot-3, DuBois is a playmaking target who Perkins can heave it up to. Reed, who leads the nation in kickoff return average (34.73 yards), is Perkins’ explosive home-run threat, while Jana is a reliable possession target.
With this balanced offensive attack, I think Virginia competes well with Florida in the first half, similar to how it did at Notre Dame.
However, compared to Florida’s No. 14 scoring defense (14.4 points per game) and high-powered passing attack (300. 4 yards per game), I think the Cavaliers are just a little outmatched.
Gators pull away, but UVA covers the 14.5-point spread, 31-20.
Florida is looking to win their second straight New Year’s Six bowl game, and this year they will be facing an opponent that is making their first such bowl appearance in Virginia.
The Cavaliers earned the bid by being the highest ranked ACC team not invited to the College Football Playoff despite a 9-4 record and a 62-17 loss in their most recent contest.
Even with starting cornerback CJ Henderson out after declaring for the NFL Draft, the Gators’ talent is superior to Virginia at almost every position.
Virginia boasts a good front seven that registered 45 sacks and should allow the Cavaliers to keep it close through at least the first half. Ultimately, the Gators will wear down Virginia and earn their eleventh win of the season. Florida 31-13.
Florida and Virginia will kickoff at 8:00 PM on December 30 and will be aired live on ESPN. You can follow @MikeyPfeffer and @ChompTalk for live updates.
What are your predictions, Gator Nation? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook.