Photo Credit: www.floridagators.com
The Florida Gators will play the Virginia Cavaliers at the 86th Orange Bowl this December. It is the first time in over 60 years the two football teams meet and play together. The schools recently met in the College World Series in 2015, and have played each other in the NCAA basketball tournament in recent years but the football match-up hasn’t happened in more than 6 decades.
The decision was announced on Sunday afternoon after the New Year’s Day six bowl games were announced. The New Year’s Day bowl games are Orange, Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta. It is the Cavaliers’ first Orange Bowl appearance since going to the Peach in 1998.
The matchup, as well as the two teams, have some history behind them. The last time the two teams played in football against each other was October 3, 1959 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Gators won 55-10. The reason for the long hiatus was due to Virginia turning down a chance to play in the Orange Bowl after 1951 when at the time the school didn’t want to be part of major college football. The Cavaliers didn’t go to their first bowl game again until 1984. This trip is Virginia’s first appearance in the Orange Bowl.
The University of Virginia will go to the Orange Bowl for the 21st time. The University happily accepted the bid after being asked. Leading the Cavaliers is head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The Florida Gators’ head coach, Dan Mullen, is already the first head coach in school history to post 10 wins in each of his first two seasons. He was hired on November 26, 2017, as the 27th head coach of the Florida Gators.
The Cavaliers are 9-4 overall and the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division champions. The Orange Bowl will mark UVA’s third consecutive appearance under Mendenhall, now in his fourth year. Florida is 10-2 and finished second in the Southeastern Conference’ East Division. The Florida Gators ranks No. 9 in CFP, while Virginia is No. 24.
The Gators will be playing without standout junior cornerback CJ Henderson, who declared for the NFL draft Friday and said he would not be playing in the bowl game.
The Gators have had mostly good luck in their play history at the Orange Bowl. They are looking to take their record to 4-0 in the prestigious bowl game. The University of Florida beat Georgia Tech 27-12 in 1967, defeated Syracuse 31-10 in 1999 and Maryland 56-23 in 2002. The Gators also won the 2009 BCS National Championship Game over Oklahoma.
Coach Mullen has led the Gators to various victories with two consecutive double-digit-win seasons. UF has not done that back-to-back seasons since 2008-09.
The Gators face the Cavaliers on Monday, December 30 at Hard Rock Stadium beginning at 8 p.m. in Miami Gardens, FL. Tickets and parking information can be found at https://floridagators.com/sports/2018/10/22/football-bowl-tickets.aspx and at http://www.orangebowl.org/thegame/info/parking/. For out-of-state fans including University of Virginia students, travel package information can be found at https://uvafantravel.com/.
The event will be televised nationally via ESPN.
Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.