Florida vs. Virginia: The Essential Orange Bowl Guide

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As the Gators get ready to play in another NY6 bowl game, I wanted to take a bit of a deeper dive looking at the Virginia team Florida will play in several days, and I will break this down into categories.

Offensive Line

The first thing that stood out to me about Virginia’s offense wasn’t Perkins, it was their offensive line play in pass protection. Florida has a fantastic pass rush and watching Virginia’s tackles try to block anyone tells me that they are going to struggle with Greenard, DIabate, Carter and Zuniga if he plays.

On this play below, you will #21 for FSU (DE with his hand on the ground) rip the LT to the side easily and start pressuring Perkins.

Here FSU has 4 defensive linemen with their hands in the grass and the end at the top of the screen gets under the left tackles chest and pushes him right back into Perkins comfort zone.  The same thing happens to the RT here, he also gets shoved back into the pocket, taking away Perkins ability to step up into the pocket.

This is where I think Carter can have a good day for Florida, their guards aren’t much better at handling pressure than the tackles are and here you get a Miami DT that splits a double team and gets into the backfield for a sack.

Offensive Creativity

Virginia runs a lot of RPO action, and Perkins does a good job of making quick decisions. In this play below, Virginia will run an RPO that only calls for the two WRs to Perkins left to run routes with everyone else run blocking.

Perkins makes the quick and correct read and the quick slant gets wide open for a catch.

On this next diagram, it is once again a two receiver route with everyone else in run protection; the RB goes into motion and will cut back on a counter look at the snap, Perkins will fake him the ball and immediately start giving the defense a look that he will keep the ball on a designed run.

The play call was great, it got most of the Miami defense moving with the RB on the counter look, once Perkins takes off running, the DB in that area takes off with his target on Perkins, but around the 40-yard line, you will notice a Virginia WR wide open on a wheel route which is where Perkins goes for an easy completion.

Moving away from RPO and into some of Virginia’s passing game concepts, they will run different concepts on the same play. On this diagram below, you get the TE/H-Back and the slot receiver running deep routes with the top receiver running a quick in route in hopes of getting him open underneath the Miami coverage. On the other side of the field, Virginia is running a WR screen.

The in cutting route at the top of the screen is open (I forgot to circle it, but you can spot him around the 40-yard line), but Perkins goes to the bottom screen concept and it goes for an easy first down.

Virginia really enjoys running these quick hitter plays and they like to use 2 receivers in the backfield (either two RBs or an RB and a H-Back/TE) in the passing game that act as safety valves for Perkins.

The H-Backs flat route pulls the Miami defense just enough to get the receiver open just past the first down marker and Perkins doesn’t waste his time getting rid of the ball.

This next diagram I can foresee being a problem for Florida. I think most Florida fans know by now how conservative Grantham has a tendency of getting on 3rd and long situations, Virginia is comfortable being in a third and long situation because they will send their WRs deep and call a simple QB draw with leading blockers for Perkins.

Two defenders for three blockers, Perkins easily gains 20 yards here for a first down. Grantham can’t get comfortable expecting that Virginia will just lay down and run a slow HB draw.

Last for this section is the read-option, which strangely enough doesn’t seem to be a HUGE aspect of their offense, I could be wrong, but most of their run plays that I paid attention to didn’t have the traditional tackle leaving the end unblocked that I was looking for. But Perkins provides a dangerous threat as a keeper on this play and Virginia will get creative in how they run the option, as shown on the play below that gets two blockers out in space ahead of Perkins.

Bryce Perkins

Perkins is a really solid QB who many people will make the mistake of assuming he is an RB playing QB. That isn’t the case. Florida will have to be very disciplined in how they attack Perkins, Grantham, being the aggressive coordinator he is, hasn’t been one to call for a spy against QBs like Perkins, but he may have to adapt vs. Virginia.

On this first screenshot, the offensive line has given Perkins a pocket to which he can step up and throw the ball, but I can’t see what the coverage looks like against the receivers, what I do notice with Perkins is he isn’t shy to take off and use his speed if you bring your linebackers in on a blitz package or drop them back into a zone. On this specific play, most the defense has dropped into a zone and Perkins steps up and gains the first down with his feet.

Here is the opposite look, here both linebackers are coming into the A-gap and while Virginia’s offensive line picks up the blitz, Perkins spots no linebackers in the middle of the field and immediately tucks and runs.

Perkins is mostly a one read QB, I didn’t see many instances of him going through his progressions, but he will do it, as shown below. I think the biggest issue with Perkins is a lack of trust in the offensive line, and since I don’t know the play calls, I can’t say with 100% certainty how their passing game is designed. Because a vast majority of Virginia’s passing game is Perkins locking onto his first read and immediately throwing the ball. But he has the potential to scan the field.

This is a route that Trask has struggled throwing this season but Perkins shows nice touch here. It helps that the FSU defense looks wildly out of position on this play, but the ball still needs to be put into the right spot and Perkins does just that.

You can look at this next play as one that could also belong in the offensive line section. The LT ends up being thrown to the ground by the Miami pass rusher, but Perkins stands tall in the pocket and throws a great ball into the soft spot of Miami’s zone defense.

Defensive Look

This is what Virginia’s primary base defense looks like vs. offenses that run out 3 or more receiver looks. Two defenders with their hand on the ground with two on ball linebackers standing up over the tackles outside shoulder.

Virginia has no issue with bringing pressure and showing exotic looks, something I don’t foresee bothering Trask much because I imagine he sees this kind of stuff in practice. Virginia also likes to bring their corners down on the line of scrimmage to throw off the timing of the routes, so I expect the inside receivers to be used quite a bit by Mullen.

Virginia’s corners are solid at just doing the fundamental stuff really well. In order to spare your laptop or phone from using up too many resources playing my GIFs, I removed a couple of other highlights of Virginia’s corners doing stuff like this on a routine basis.

Defensive Discipline

Virginia’s defense is aggressive minded, no different than Florida’s is. Using motion against Virginia has resulted in a couple of big plays going against them. On this specific play FSU puts the RB into motion and you get a little pump fake to that direction by Blackman, this causes three defenders to aggressively bite on what I can only assume is they thought a RB screen was coming.

The topmost WR runs a skinny post and gets open behind the overly aggressive defense. And as you can see from this still shot below, there are three FSU receivers all behind the defense, Blackman could have thrown to any of them.

Virginia runs east-west really well. Their defense fires into the backfield against screens and rarely allows themselves to get beat wide on a jet sweep run/toss in the backfield.

This is a little touch pass by Miami’s offense and there is nowhere to go. One of the Virginia linebackers has outside leverage and is just patiently waiting for the rest of the defense to get there.

Now to show you Virginia’s defense in action in a GIF, Miami runs a speed option to the short side of the field. Ignoring the infuriating concept of running this to the short side of the field, just watch Virginia’s defense attack, you get a linebacker forcing the RB to have to cut back inside to the rest of the flowing defense and there is nowhere for the RB to go.

UVA Offense vs UF Defense Statistical Comparisons

Virginia Offense Florida Defense
Category Stat Ranking Stat Ranking
Points Per Game 32.4 42 14.4 8
Rush Yards Per Game 126.54 111 107.00 11
Yards Per Carry 3.91 91 3.23 12
Pass Yards Per Game 263.5 36 192.0 18
QB Rating 131.81 79 115.62 19
Completion Percentage 64.5% 24 59.3% 56
Total Yards Per Game 390.0 80 299.0 9
Yards Per Play 5.63 80 4.80 17
Sacks Allowed Vs Sacks 38 119 4 5
3rd Down Conversion % 45.79% 23 36.26% 41
4th Down Conversion % 53.33% 64 22.22% 1
Red Zone Scoring % 87.69% 45 64.52% 2

UVA Defense vs UF Offense Statistical Comparisons

Virginia Defense Florida Offense
Category Stat Ranking Stat Ranking
Points Per Game 26.5 59 33.0 35
Rush Yards Per Game 130.00 32 120.25 120
Yards Per Carry 3.65 28 3.96 90
Pass Yards Per Game 228.2 67 300.4 17
QB Rating 136.98 76 159.67 14
Completion Percentage 55.9% 25 68.5% 9
Total Yards Per Game 358.2 39 420.7 53
Yards Per Play 5.59 61 6.37 23
Sacks vs Sacks Allowed 45 7 24 60
3rd Down Conversion % 35.26% 36 40.69% 58
4th Down Conversion % 47.83% 52 58.33% 38
Red Zone Scoring % 82.50% 56 84.00% 63

Conclusion

Virginia is not a team that overwhelms you with speed and talent. Their last 4 recruiting classes ranked 39th, 59th, 58th, 63rd. Bronco Mendenhall and the rest of this Virginia staff has easily out produced their recruiting marks and overachieved in 2019.

Perkins isn’t going to blow you away passing the ball, in terms of his national ranks throwing the ball, here are some of his rankings heading into the game:

Yards Per Game: 31st
QB Rating: 68th
Completion %: 30th
Yards/Att: 77th

The QB Rating is about as middling as you can get, but Perkins isn’t simply just an athlete at QB forced to play the position, when his offensive line protects him, he can go through the motions and hurt you. He has an ok touch on the ball and is comfortable throwing into soft spots of the zone but he doesn’t have great arm strength (him and Trask may be similar in this department). The issue for Perkins is that I’m not sure his offensive line will be able to keep him comfortable in the pocket. I only expect 2 or 3 sacks from Florida in this game because Perkins is such a threat as a runner and does a great job at evading tacklers, but I see no reason to believe that Florida will not live in the backfield and consistently force Perkins to scramble.

Florida will have to be very careful in how they attack Perkins, if you overrun your gap or assignment and leave a hole for Perkins to run through, he will gladly take it and hurt you for it. Virginia also has no issue with relying on Perkins legs on 3rd and long as they call quite a bit of keepers for him a game.

Virginia’s running game is bad, it’s only slightly better than Florida’s on a yards per game basis. Virginia can’t run block, no different from Florida. I would be shocked if Perkins isn’t their leading rusher, he will probably eclipse the 20 carry mark in this game, a combo between designed runs and scrambles.

Virginia’s defense is really well-coached, their corners play the ball well, they don’t miss a lot of tackles, their linebackers do a good job of forcing wide off-tackle runs back into the flow of the defense, but despite their total sack numbers, their pass rush isn’t something I’m worried about. 16 of their 45 sacks came vs. Liberty, William & Mary, and Old Dominion. Their pass rush doesn’t stick out as Florida’s does, they don’t have anyone on the level of Greenard or Zuniga in terms of consistently winning battles and most of their sack numbers come from scheming vs. someone winning vs. an offensive lineman. Despite Florida’s overall play from the offensive line, Florida is not horrible as a pass-blocking group and over the last two games I’ve noticed Delance playing fewer snaps at RT which bodes well for Florida in this game if the staff continues to give him less playing time vs a defense that likes to use speedy linebackers over bigger, bulkier defensive linemen.

To finish this off, I see a Florida win here. 30-23 feels like a safe prediction for me. A lot of Florida fans are overlooking Virginia because, well, it’s just Virginia. They aren’t Michigan in terms of program prestige so many people view this as a blowout win for Florida, I don’t see it simply because this is probably the best coached team Florida will play all season outside of LSU. I don’t have the confidence that Mullen can live and die by Trask throwing 8 screens in this game and hoping for YAC. Maybe we see some screen and go plays called to take advantage of Virginia’s speed on wide plays, but otherwise, I expect Pitts and Florida’s slot receivers to have big games and I don’t foresee Florida running backs doing anything but totaling less than 50 yards in this game. As long as Florida takes Virginia seriously, I expect them to have a lead for the bulk of this game. 

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