College Football Betting — Virginia Tries to Prove It Belongs vs. Florida in Orange Bowl
By Charles Jay
The Florida Gators have demonstrated the ability to be bowl-ready under head coach Dan Mullen, and conditions would seem to be right for that to happen again. The Gators, who have gotten a boost from a switch at the quarterback position, will have some support in the house as they meet up with the Virginia Cavaliers in the Orange Bowl, scheduled for Monday, December 30 at 8 PM ET at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL.
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Florida (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) only lost to elite teams. They were neck-and-neck until very late against top-ranked LSU, which pulled away with a couple of TD’s to prevail 42-28. And they also lost 24-17 to Georgia in the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party” in Jacksonville.
Mullen had been the offensive coordinator in Gainesville during more glorious years, and is generally considered to be the mentor for Tim Tebow in the spread option offense. He left to become head coach of Mississippi State, but he came back to revive the Florida program, which had experienced some disrepair. He led the team to a 41-15 rout of Michigan last year in the Peach Bowl.
Virginia (9-4 SU, 6-7 ATS) advanced to the ACC title game as the champion of the Coastal Division, a distinction they won by beating in-state rival Virginia Tech. They had other credible wins over Pittsburgh, Florida State, North Carolina and Liberty, while losing conference games against Miami and Duke and a 15-point decision at Notre Dame. And they were overwhelmed by Clemson (62-17) in the conference championship contest.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall is currently 25-26 at Virginia after spending ten years as the head honcho at BYU.
In the college football betting odds on this Orange Bowl game, Florida is laying a substantial number of points:
Florida Gators -14.5
Virginia Cavaliers +14.5
Over 54.5 points -110
Under 54.5 points -110
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Feleipe Franks has been considered an NFL quarterback prospect. But he was lost for the season with an ankle injury. In stepped Kyle Trask, a redshirt junior who has perhaps taken this offense to a higher level. Trask has thrown for 2636 yards and 24 touchdowns, completing about two-thirds of his passes. He’s an interesting story because he wasn’t even his high school’s starter (D’Eriq King, who went to Houston, was the first-stringer.
And the Gators had all their receivers from last year, including tight end Kyle Pitts (610 yards). Trevon Grimes, Josh Hammond, Kedarius Toney, Van Jefferson- it’s a deep group, even if Freddie Swain (questionable with knee injury) can’t make post.
Cornerback CJ Henderson will sit this game out, as the possible first-rounder prepares for the NFL Draft. But Florida may have a problem with the QB’s who are coming back. Franks is staying in school (unless he decides to take a baseball offer from the Red Sox), and Trask, who also has nice NFL size (6-5, 235), has stated that even though he’s graduated, he will return for another year of eligibility. Then there is redshirt freshman Emory Jones, a five-star recruit who is considered the “quarterback of the future.” So it’s an embarrassment of riches.
Defensively, Florida is equipped to give most teams a hard time. They are ranked tenth in the nation overall – allowing just 14.4 points per game, 3.2 yards per carry. They are 21st in pass efficiency defense, have 46 sacks and 97 Tackles For Loss. They have held opponents to no points at all 35.5% of the time in the red zone (second in nation).
So you get the picture. Virginia (15th in nation in offense) has a nice QB in Bryce Perkins, an Arizona State transfer who had 3215 passing yards and 745 on the ground. He is a guy Florida will have to chase down. And he has a balanced receiving corps, with Terrell Jana (67 catches, 780 yards), Hasise Dubois (65 for 979) and Joe Reed (70 for 627), who is also #1 in the nation in kickoff returns. He is also questionable for this one with a hip injury.
Virginia has been one-dimensional on offense, and they have shown some weakness defending the pass. You get the impression they are a little overmatched here. Florida didn’t necessarily have any national title hopes, so the “disappointment factor” is minimal. They will have plenty of fans o hand, making the four-hour drive to Miami. They’ll win this, but will they be able to pull away?
You’d think Florida’s defense could dominate here, and maybe it will. They have made opponents gain 18.2 yards per point, and in games against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Miami and Clemson, Virginia averaged only 340 yards. Mullen won’t hold the troops back, based on last year’s bowl result. A totals play should be considered, but laying points might not be the worst idea.
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