No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Florida
Goodyear Cotton Bowl | Location: Arlington, Tex. | When: Dec. 30 (8 p.m.) | TV: ESPN | Line: Oklahoma -2.5 | O/U: 69.5
How these teams got here
Oklahoma: The Sooners lost back-to-back games after opening the season with a win over FCS opponent Missouri State. OU opened Big 12 play with a loss to Kansas State that looked more and more inexplicable by the week and followed that game up with a loss at Iowa State. The Sooners then reeled off six consecutive wins after beating Texas in overtime. That stretch included an easy 28-point win over Oklahoma State that effectively ended the Cowboys’ Big 12 title hopes. OU then got revenge on Iowa State in the Big 12 title game on Dec. 19.
Redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler became the Sooners’ fourth starting QB in four years in 2020 and he’s improved as the season has gone on. Rattler has thrown for 2,784 yards and has scored 30 total TDs.
Florida: The Gators won each of their eight games by two scores or more and each of their three losses were within a single possession. After beating Ole Miss and South Carolina to start the year, Florida lost at Texas A&M. The Gators then beat Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Tennessee on the way to the SEC East title before losing 37-34 to LSU on Dec. 12. That loss severely dented the Gators’ playoff hopes and they were officially quashed with a 52-46 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game.
The Gators have been led by Heisman finalist QB Kyle Trask. The senior has completed nearly 70 percent of passes and has thrown for 4,125 yards and 43 TDs and just five interceptions. Had Florida beaten LSU he would likely have a much better shot at taking home the trophy.
Players to watch
Oklahoma WR Marvin Mims: The freshman has emerged as Oklahoma’s top receiver in 2020 now that CeeDee Lamb is with the Dallas Cowboys. Mims has 36 catches for 583 yards and eight scores this season. He had seven catches for 101 yards and a TD against the Cyclones in the Big 12 championship game. It was his first game with a score since Nov. 7.
Florida RB Dameon Pierce: This was a tricky category for the Gators. It’s a copout to list Trask in this section and he’ll be missing a bunch of his receivers on Wednesday night. TE Kyle Pitts, WR Kadarius Toney and WR Trevon Grimes are all preparing for the NFL draft while WR Jacob Copeland is out because of COVID-19 protocols.
That leaves us to select Pierce here. He had the most offensive touches of any Florida running back or receiver in 2020 with 95 caries for 443 yards and 15 catches for 136 yards. He also scored five total TDs. Pierce’s production, however, has dropped off a cliff in recent weeks. He’s had just 15 carries for 31 yards over Florida’s last three games. That’s not going to be acceptable on Wednesday night. Can he bounce back and produce the first 100-yard rushing game for a Gator all season?
What’s on the line
Oklahoma: The Sooners have a chance to end the season with a win for the first time under Lincoln Riley … though it’s also OU’s first time missing out on the College Football Playoff in Riley’s tenure. This is Oklahoma’s first trip back to the Cotton Bowl since the 2012 season and the Sooners last won the Cotton Bowl after the 2001 season. OU can also finish a season with two losses for the sixth consecutive time.
Florida: The Gators haven’t lost a bowl game since the Citrus Bowl after the 2015 season. That was when Jim McElwain was the team’s head coach. This is the third New Year’s Six game in Dan Mullen’s three years in Gainesville and it’s the first time that Florida has ever played in the Cotton Bowl. It’s also worth pointing out that the spread has shifted over five points in Oklahoma’s favor as the absence of Florida’s top receivers has become known.
Nick Bromberg: Oklahoma -2.5
Sam Cooper: Oklahoma -2.5
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