Posted on December 29, 2019, by Travis Pulver

When it comes to college football programs, Virginia is not one that many fans are going to be aware of. Many fans probably only know them as that team that Clemson destroyed in the ACC title game.

But what fans may not know is that head coach Bronco Mendenhall has been doing great work with the Virginia football team. They didn’t surprise anyone in the ACC title game, but could they do so against the Florida Gators in the Orange Bowl?

Well—crazier things have happened.

Orange Bowl Preview

Oddsmakers do not have much confidence in Virginia pulling off an upset. At DraftKings, the Cavaliers are 14.5-point underdogs to the No. 9 Gators. That would make it seem as if this game is destined to become a blowout.

It’s not hard to understand why. Florida is one of the best pass-rushing teams in the country (No. 4) and has 11 guys with at least two sacks. So, if Virginia (who struggles to protect the quarterback) tries to target one game and make sure he’s blocked, there are others ready to fill the void.

The Florida pass rush is not worth a two-touchdown spread, of course. But when you factor in Florida’s top-ten defense and Virginia’s struggles on offense (No. 80 in total yards; No. 113 in rushing yards). It begins to make sense.

By the numbers, it looks like Virginia may struggle to move the ball at all against the Gators. However, Florida may have a little trouble moving the ball against Virginia. Their defense is not in the same class as the Gators, but it is 39th in total yards allowed and seventh in the nation sacks.

Since Florida tends to move the ball best in the passing game (No. 16 in the nation; 300.4 yards/game), the Virginia front seven will likely get plenty of chances to sack Gator QB, Kyle Trask.

So—who’s going to win?

Our Orange Bowl Prediction

Florida is going to try to do to Virginia what they have done to everyone else this season. They will use their dominant defense to shut the Cavaliers down offensively. Then, with the shorter field their defense creates, they will pass their way into the endzone.

Virginia’s best shot will require them to try to match Florida when they score. While the Virginia offense is not high-powered, Bryce Perkins is a capable quarterback with a good trio of receivers to work with in Hasise Dubois, Terrell Jana, and Joe Reed.

So, if Perkins can get on track early against the Florida secondary, the Cavaliers may have a shot. It will help that defensive back C.J. Henderson is sitting out to get ready for the draft. But that will likely not be enough to help Virginia pull off the upset.

So—How Should You Bet?

Take Florida (-590) over Virginia (+425) to win. But don’t be in a rush to take Florida and give the points. Florida will likely cover the spread but giving 14.5 just seems kind of crazy. As for the over/under (54.5), it is not hard to imagine the final score being something like 40-18, Florida.

Don’t bet the house that the over will be covered– but take the over.    

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