MIAMI GARDENS, Fla -- The finale is here.
The No. 9 Florida Gators (10-2) are set to kick off the final game of their successful 2019 season at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens tonight against the No. 24 Virginia Cavaliers (9-4), in the 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl.
As always, the GatorMaven staff has their picks and predictions set for the game, and like most weeks from this past season, the staff sees this game going one way.
Zach Goodall: Florida 38, Virginia 20
While my score prediction is the tightest of the staff, don't get confused - this game won't be close.
I see Florida starting a bit slow on offense, given Virginia's confusing defensive looks and high blitz percentage. Seven defenders have logged at least 20 quarterback pressures in 2019, in comparison to Florida only having two.
However, Florida is known as a team that puts it all together as the game goes on, and Kyle Trask isn't the type of QB to make any mistake twice. After shaking a bit of rust off, rest assured that Florida will put its foot on the gas.
Graham Marsh: Florida 42. Virginia 14.
Virginia is only ranked to promote this game. The Cavaliers are simply not among the better teams in college football and Florida is among the best teams in college football. Outside of the teams that made the college football playoff, there is a legitimate debate for UF being the best team in the country.
Virginia? The debate is if UVA should even be ranked.
Also, Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins is the perfect quarterback for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to harass. Perkins has a good arm but struggles to pick things up quickly during the course of a play. Think of when the Gators played against Auburn.
Remember how lost Bo Nix looked? Expect Perkins to look the same, especially as the game wears on and it becomes harder for UVA to script things for him.
Offensively, I expect UF to roll just like it has recently and I expect quarterback Kyle Trask to deliver the same consistency he has since taking over the starting gig. I see a very similar result in this game as Florida's rout against Michigan in the Peach Bowl last season.
Jeremy Klump: Florida 41, Virginia 10
It’s been a full month since the Florida Gators last took the field, defeating Florida State 40-17 on November 30, 2019. Expect there to be some rust from both teams and mistakes early.
However, the Gators' defense is elite, and they will make Virginia pay for any mistakes. I expect the Gators’ defense to dominate the Orange Bowl, forcing three or more turnovers and taking one of those turnovers in for a score. The Gators’ offense will struggle early on, but Florida is on another level compared to Virginia.
Donavon Keiser: Florida 45, Virginia 24
I see Florida covering (-14.5) with ease, as the Gators have been preparing for this Virginia team for weeks now. Virginia has been banged up and has also lost their best remaining defensive player in Jordan Mack, who won’t play in the Orange Bowl.
On the other hand, Florida will get Jabari Zuniga back for one last game as the senior has finally recovered from an ankle injury that has hindered him all season. Florida will see one of the top cornerback prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft in C.J Henderson sit out, but Kaiir Elam should step right up to replace him.
Florida just has more weapons all around and Virginia shouldn’t be able to stop the speed that Florida has, especially on defense.
QB Bryce Perkins will give Florida a different look than they have seen, as he has the ability to make plays with his arm and his legs. Still, Florida should go up early and keep their foot on the gas til triple zeros hit the clock. Florida should cover the 14.5 spread, as I don’t see Virginia keeping up with Florida’s offense especially with a lot of playmakers playing at UF for the last time.
The Gators have been preparing the right way and have enjoyed themselves the past few days. I see that translating well, especially with a lot of these guys playing in front of their family and friends in Miami.
Ainslie Lee: Florida 37, Virginia 10
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 to pull the Gators into complacency. However, thus far, Mullen has done a great job of 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.
Victor Prieto: Florida 38, Virginia 14
Dan Mullen and the Gators football team enters its second New Years Six Bowl in as many years Monday night. Florida will look to secure its first postseason win in South Florida since 2009.
The Gators’ defense will have to control Virginia’s Bryce Perkins through the air and on the ground without star cornerback C.J. Henderson, who declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. It will be a tough task for the Florida front seven, as the Cavalier quarterback leads the team on the ground with 102 more rushes than the team’s starting running back.
Expect Kyle Trask and Emory Jones to both get special packages in this one, and Mullen will no doubt have a trick or two up his sleeve. In the end, the Gators talent will be too much for a good Virginia team and Florida will claim the title of Orange Bowl champions.