The Gator Bowl has tie-ins from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12 Conference, and Big East Conferences, as well as independent Notre Dame. They have the right to the third pick of a team from the ACC, and have the option to offer the other spot to the second pick from the Big East, the fourth pick from the Big 12, or Notre Dame. The 2008 game featured the ACC's Virginia Cavaliers, who finished the 2007 season with an overall record of 9–3 (6–2 in the ACC) playing the Big 12's Texas Tech Red Raiders, who finished the 2007 season with an overall record of 8–4 (4–4 in the Big 12). The game was the eighth straight post season appearance for the Red Raiders. Virginia returned to a bowl game after failing to qualify for one following the 2006 season.
After Texas Tech jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, scoring on their second drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Graham Harrell to Detron Lewis, Virginia reeled off 21 straight points, including two safeties where Harrell was called for intentional grounding in the endzone. Virginia tailbackMikell Simpson scored on a 96-yard run, an NCAA bowl record for a running back.
Virginia carried a 21-7 lead into the locker room at halftime and seemed to be in control after Simpson hauled in an 11-yard pass from quarterback Peter Lalich with 11:26 left in the game to make the score 28-14.
With 7:54 left in the game, Texas Tech turned the ball over on downs just outside of Virginia's goal line. The Cavaliers were unable to pick up a first down and, following a punt, the Red Raiders took over at midfield trailing by 14 with 5:32 left. Harrell engineered an efficient drive completing five of his eight passes on the drive, including a 20-yard fade to Michael Crabtree for a touchdown to make it 28-21 with 3:31 left on the clock.
On Virginia's ensuing drive, Lalich was sacked and fumbled the football, setting up a one-play drive for Texas Tech — a four-yard touchdown run for Aaron Crawford.
Virginia was again unable to pick up a first down and Texas Tech drove to the UVA 24 yard line and Alex Trlica kicked the winning 41-yard field goal with two seconds left. The final score was Texas Tech 31, Virginia 28.