Orange Bowl Tale of the Tape: No. 24 Virginia vs No. 9 Florida

 

The eyes of Wahoo Nation will be on the Sunshine State tonight as Virginia plays in its first Orange Bowl against ninth-ranked Florida at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

The No. 24 Cavaliers (9-4) were over-matched against Clemson in the ACC Championship game a few weeks back, but got an up-close look at a top-tier program and that trend will continue Monday evening against the 10-2 Gators, and even into next season in the opener against Georgia.

UVA will be without the services of senior linebacker and sack leader Jordan Mack, but this Cavalier defense is no stranger to using the “next-man-up” mentality.

The ‘Hoos have a chance to become just the second Virginia team in program history to win 10 games, but will have their work cut out for them tonight against a talented and experienced Gator squad.

The two sides have only squared off once, and that was 60 years ago. There will be some unfamiliarity for certain, but both UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall and his counterpart, UF coach Dan Mullen, have had a few weeks to prepare for this evening’s ACC-SEC primetime showdown.

For Florida, it all starts with quarterback Kyle Trask, a 6-foot-5, 239-pound redshirt junior who assumed the starting role at the end of the Gators’ third game of the season and has thrived ever since. Despite his somewhat shortened season, Trask is one of just 41 signal callers at the FBS level to throw for 20-plus touchdowns in 2019.

He had as many 300-yard passing games (three) this year as all of Florida’s QBs from 2010-18 combined, and did it in just nine starts under center.

His favorite target is Kyle Pitts, one of the nation’s best at the tight-end position. Pitts leads the Gators in receptions (51) and receiving yards (610), and will be a focal point of the Wahoo defense. Ten different UF receivers hauled in touchdown tosses this season.

On the ground, Lamical Perine is Florida’s feature back, and while the overall rushing numbers may not wow anyone (120.2 yards a game), the Gators have shown that they are capable of breaking off huge chunks of yardage.

Florida has posted three runs of 75 yards or more, which set a new program record for a single season — Perine had an impressive 88-yard run for six against Auburn; Josh Hammond went for 76 against Kentucky; Dameon Pierce hustled 75 yards in the win over South Carolina.

Defensively, the Gators are one of the top units in the country. The Florida defense is giving up just 14.4 points per contest and only 299 yards a game, and has registered 22 takeaways (15 via interceptions) in the process. UF is second in the country in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to score on 64.5 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line.

Florida knocked off a solid Auburn team, but the collective win-loss record of their other victims this season is 53-55 (four 7-5 teams, three 6-6 teams, a 4-8 team and a 3-9 team).

The Gators are 7-1 in games played in the state of Florida this season, and have won all three of the program’s previous Orange Bowl contests (1967, 1999 and 2002).

Tale of the Tape

 

The Coaches

UVA — Bronco Mendenhall

4th season at Virginia (25-26); 15th season overall (124-69); Record vs. UF: 0-0

UF — Dan Mullen

2nd season at Florida (20-5); 11th season overall (89-51); Record vs. UF: 0-0

Broadcast Information

TV: ESPN

Announcers: Steve Levy (play-by-play), Brian Griese (analyst), Todd McShay (field analyst), Molly McGrath (sideline)

Radio: Virginia Sports Network

Announcers: Dave Koehn (play-by-play), Tony Covington (analyst), Jay James (sideline)

Radio: ESPN Radio

Announcers: Sean Kelley (play-by-play), Barrett Jones (analyst), Ian Fitzsimmons (sideline)

Satellite Radio:

Sirius Channel — 136

XM Channel — 193

Internet Channel — 955

Kickoff Forecast

Intermittent Clouds, 75 degrees

Precipitation — 20%

Wind — 5 mph

Humidity — 86%
(Courtesy AccuWeather)

The Vegas Take

“Virginia and Florida meet at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami tonight for the Orange Bowl. This line opened at Florida -14 and total 53.5. Not much movement on the spread, which has seen sharp action on both Florida -13.5 and UVA +14.5. The total has seen a little over action as UVA will be without its defensive captain, Jordan Mack. It currently sits at 55.

My prediction: Florida 34-30.”

— Professional Sports Bettor Anthony Esposito from krackwins.com will give his exclusive analysis and perspective on Virginia’s matchup each week.

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