The Orange Bowl is set. This year it is not part of the College Football Playoff, which explains the lighter media attendance compared to last year. However, the marathon continues.
The Virginia Cavaliers and Florida Gators accepted their invitations to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
This will be only the second meeting between the two schools. Florida won the first, 55-10 in 1959. I can bet the players in this matchup were not born yet. Additionally, the Gators are 3-0 in the Orange Bowl while Virginia is making its first appearance.
That is history. This is why you play the game. Let’s get into it.
The Cavaliers made their way out alive of an ACC Coastal division that includes teams beating up each other from the bottom up, eventually losing to the Clemson Tigers in the ACC title game humbly 62-17.
“Look forward to a great game and have a lot of respect for the University of Florida and the caliber of opponent that we’re going to be playing,” Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall also led the Cavaliers to victory over their rival the Virginia Tech Hokies this season to end the 15-year losing streak. It was arguably the game with the most on the line for both teams in nearly a decade, an exciting Coastal Conference Game that sent UVA to the 2019 ACC Championship Game and, eventually, this Orange Bowl.
Virginia comes into the Orange Bowl ranked 24th. They are led by the talented dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins.
Perkins has thrown for 3,215 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, in addition to 745 yards and another 11 scores rushing. Perkins is the ACC’s leader in total offense (304.6 ypg). Leading him to being named second-team All-ACC quarterback.
“A win would mean a lot because no one has ever done it before, well, one other has done it before,” Perkins said. “It sets us up to be one of the best teams in UVA history, just being mentioned with the other 10-win team.”
In the ACC Championship Game, Perkins threw for 266 yards and ran for 58 more. Collectively the Cavaliers have the skill players to keep it close and make it a contest. With all eyes on Perkins, the Cavaliers defense is what they will need to upset a Gators team who will be playing behind a potential home-field advantage.
The 9th ranked Gators leading off will have more talent and skilled players. Defensively they are fifth in the nation and first in the SEC with 46 sacks. Perkins is terrific, but Virginia gave up 38 sacks in 13 games to rank near the bottom of the ACC (11th).
“When we started with this team in January, we talked about how hard you have to work, and whatever we did the year before, that wasn’t enough,” Gators head coach Dan Mullen said.
I will give the edge to Gators out of the talented SEC. The Gators enter fifth in the nation and first in the SEC with 46 sacks. Perkins will be the focal point for the defense, considering he is not an easy guy to bring down considering his size and athleticism. Nonetheless, Virginia gave up 38 sacks in 13 games to rank near the bottom of the ACC (11th). The key for Florida is to keep Perkins in the pocket and not let him get out and make something happen with his legs.