Monday evening, the New Year's Six bowl schedule for this postseason continues as No. 9 Florida and No. 24 Virginia square off in the Orange Bowl down in Miami. This isn't exactly a matchup that has had everyone waiting eagerly in anticipation since the moment it was announced a few weeks ago, but that doesn't mean it doesn't carry along some storylines that should absolutely capture your attention as the year rapidly comes to a close.
Second-year coach Dan Mullen has posted back-to-back 10-win seasons with the Gators, marking one of the best two-year starts in program history (only Urban Meyer did more in his first two seasons). On the other sideline, Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall has taken the Cavaliers from ACC doormat to divisional champion in just four seasons. There are a lot of exciting players to watch on both sides, too, especially with Florida suiting up its entire team save for cornerback CJ Henderson, who declared for the NFL Draft and chose to sit out the game.
So what should you be watching for when these two teams kick off in the Orange Bowl? Check out an entire breakdown of this New Year's Six game below.
Florida: Offseason bowl bumps can be dangerous, but Florida can head into 2020 on a nice high note if it comes away with a win here. It would mark the highest win total (11) since 2012, and with quarterback Kyle Trask returning, the Gators could be trendy SEC East picks next fall. In the here and now, though, watch out for this vaunted Gators defense. Linebacker Jonathan Greenard will, luckily for all of us, be playing in this game before he takes off for the NFL. He leads the team with 8.5 sacks despite having been hampered by injuries this year. Going against Virginia's shaky offensive line should result in a monster game for Greenard.
Virginia: Quarterback Bryce Perkins has played hero ball in the past for Virginia, and he's going to need to do it again against the Gators. As mentioned above, the Wahoos have problems along the offensive line. Normally, that would spell doom for a quarterback, but Perkins is still No. 1 in the ACC in total offense (304.6 yards per game) and is one of the most dynamic dual-threat guys out there. Coupled with some big, long wide receivers, Virginia's passing offense can be a whole lot of fun to watch when it has protection to make things happen. Though Virginia doesn't have the advantage in the trenches, it does have the athletes in one-on-one space to make some special plays.
Event: Orange Bowl
Date: Monday, Dec. 30 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Hard Rock Stadium -- Miami, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Orange Bowl prediction, picks
Mendenhall is a heck of a coach and he's done a great job getting Virginia to 9-4. What this team struggles with, however, are athletic defenses that are stout up front. Those are the types of defenses that can take advantage of Virginia's offensive front. For that reason, I'll take the Gators straight up, but at 14.5, Virginia should be able to make enough plays offensively with Perkins and Co. to stay within two touchdowns. Pick: Virginia (+14.5)
Who will Florida vs. Virginia? And what critical X-factor makes one side a must-back? Visit SportsLine right now to find out which side of the spread you should be all over, all from the college football insider who has hit five of his last six picks involving the Gators.