The New Year’s Six bowls tend to provide more excitement during bowl season as top-level teams outside the College Football Playoff field do battle. That could be the case again this season, and the Cotton Bowl between No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 Florida could end up being the best game of them all as it pairs two teams that should be a great matchup for one another. The Sooners are one of college football’s hottest teams, winners of seven straight and fielding a top-10 defense over the past couple of months. The Gators, meanwhile, have the nation’s best passing offense with weapons all over the field.
Oklahoma is looking for its first postseason win since the 2017 Sugar Bowl against Auburn. The Sooners made the playoff semifinals over the past three years but lost each time. Florida is hoping for its third straight bowl win under coach Dan Mullen, as well as its third straight season finishing in the top 10 of the rankings at the end of the season.
Surprisingly, these two historically relevant programs have only met once prior to this matchup. That was back in 2009 when Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer led the Gators to their most recent national championship over Sam Bradford and Bob Stoops in the Orange Bowl. Will the Gators get another win over the Sooners in Texas? Let’s take a closer look at the matchups and storylines to follow before making some expert picks both straight up and against the spread.
Florida: Opt outs have been a big part of the 2020 season, both in the regular season and for bowl games. You can argue that no individual opt out is bigger for a team than tight end Kyle Pitts. In just eight games, Pitts racked up 770 yards receiving — averaging nearly 100 yards per game and 18 yards per catch — and 12 touchdowns. He was the textbook definition of a mismatch for defenses. He has the opportunity to be a high first-round NFL draft pick, however, so his decision to leave early and skip the bowl makes sense. Kadarius Toney has emerged as a legit WR1, but he’s out, too. So are Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland. Who will be the impact pass catcher in this game?
Oklahoma: The Sooners defense has come on strong in the second half of the season, but Florida will by far be the toughest offense they’ve faced. Oklahoma has a good balance of pass rush with defensive linemen Ronnie Perkins and Isaiah Thomas, along with linebacker Nik Bonitto. On the back end, defensive backs Tre Brown and Brendan Radley-Hiles are playing tight coverage. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has done a superb job turning the corner with this defense. Slowing down Florida’s elite passing attack and getting pressure on quarterback Kyle Trask will be the key to victory.
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Game: Cotton Bowl
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 30 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, Texas
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Cotton Bowl prediction, picks
Florida is about a field goal favorite. The true test of whether Oklahoma can pull off the win is if its defense is up to the challenge. Offensively, Oklahoma is still good, but a little less consistent than in year’s past. Getting running back Rhamondre Stevenson going will be critical in controlling the game. Yes, there will be points scored, but Oklahoma’s defense should do enough to keep things from getting too out of hand. It may even be enough to get the outright win. Pick: Oklahoma +3 | Oklahoma 37, Florida 34
So who wins Florida vs. Oklahoma? And which side of the spread hits almost 60 percent of the time? Visit SportsLine now to see which side to back, all from the model on a 56-36 run on top-rated college football picks this season.
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