Out of all bowl game destinations, few are better than Las Vegas. For No. 15 Oregon State, it’s a fitting end to a truly memorable season. Not only do the Beavers have a chance to pull off a 10-win season for the first time since 2006, but they also have the chance to take down an SEC opponent in the Florida Gators.
So, what to know about the Gators? Florida started the season with a bang, taking down the eventual Pac-12 Champion Utah Utes in Gainesville, 29-26. Since that win back in early September though, Florida has not found any consistency and ended the regular season with a mediocre 6-6 record. Often, these bowl games come down to who wants to be there and who is more motivated to play hard. It seems like the advantage in that category is firmly in favor of OSU, considering the hot ending to the season and program history at stake with win number 10 on the line.
How about the coaching? Florida’s head coach Billy Napier closes out his first season at the helm of the Gators with little to show for year one. Besides that one top-10 win against Utah back in Utah, Napier has not compiled a single other big win that is needed in order to keep Gator fans happy. Losses to rivals; Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, and Florida State sealed his first season as a disappointment, but a bowl win could salvage some pride for the Gators. However, the Beavers, led by Jonathan Smith, is finally starting to receive some well-deserved national respect and attention for the remarkable job he’s done in Corvallis.
In today’s climate of college football, any bowl games such as the Las Vegas Bowl could be impacted by impact players choosing to sit out in preparation for a potential pro career. This is the case for Florida as their starting quarterback, Anthony Richardson, has also announced that he will sit out against the Beavers. But the drama doesn’t stop there. Florida’s backup QB, Jalen Kitna, was arrested last week on five second-degree felony charges. The Gators are depleted at the most important position on the field, leaving redshirt sophomore Jack Miller III to start. Miller, a transfer from Ohio State, will be playing in his first game of the season in the bowl game, giving the Beavers’ strong defense a decided advantage against the youthful but talented Miller.
All the reasons above lean heavily on why Oregon State should win this football game. The Beavers have the motivation, coach, and quarterback play (and experience) on their side. With that said, you never know what could happen, and although the Pac-12 has had a great year as a conference, it is still always a challenge when taking on the mighty SEC.
Oregon State is currently listed as an 11-point favorite over Florida, but the line has been moving steadily in the Beavers’ favor since the matchup was announced and even more steeply since Florida’s quarterback situation has materialized. Kickoff between the Gators and Beavers is set for 11:30 AM on December 17 and can be seen on ESPN.