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Gators to face Virginia in Orange Bowl

Florida returns to Orange Bowl for first time since Steve Spurrier coached final game with Gators

Florida head coach Dan Mullen watches his players warm up before a game against Florida State, Nov. 30, 2019, in Gainesville, Florida.
Florida head coach Dan Mullen watches his players warm up before a game against Florida State, Nov. 30, 2019, in Gainesville, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – For the first time since Steve Spurrier coached his final game at Florida, the Gators are headed back to the Orange Bowl.

The Orange Bowl announced Sunday that No. 6 Florida (No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings) will face Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division champion Virginia (No. 24 in the College Football Playoff rankings) in the Dec. 30 game at Hard Rock Stadium.

Florida hasn’t played in the Orange Bowl since the Gators defeated Maryland 56-23 to conclude the 2001 season. It was Spurrier’s last game after 12 seasons at his alma mater before he stepped down to coach the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

This will be Florida’s second consecutive New Year’s Six bowl appearance in as many years under Dan Mullen. The former Mississippi State head coach was offensive coordinator for the Gators during their 2006 and 2008 national championship teams.

The Cavaliers (9-4) will make their first-ever appearance in the Orange Bowl. Despite a blowout loss to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game, Virginia earned a trip to South Florida by being the highest-ranked ACC team not in the top four of the final College Football Playoff rankings.

Florida (10-2) is 3-0 all-time in Orange Bowl appearances.