No. 7 Gators to face No. 6 Oklahoma in Cotton Bowl

Edgar Thompson, South Florida Sun Sentinel

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators will face the Oklahoma Sooners Dec. 30 in the Cotton Bowl, marking UF’s third consecutive New Year’s Six Access Bowl appearance.

The Gators stumbled to the finish of the 2020 season, losing their final two games, including a 52-46 decision to top-ranked Alabama in the SEC title game.

Saturday night’s narrow loss did not drop the Gators (8-3) from the No. 7 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, setting the stage for a date in Arlington, Texas, with the surging No. 6 Sooners (8-2).

Since a 53-45 overtime win against Texas, Oklahoma has won its six games by an average score of 42-17. OU coach Lincoln Riley’s squad beat Iowa State 27-21 Saturday for the Big 12 title.

“I wouldn’t want to play Oklahoma right now,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said during the network’s broadcast revealing the bowl bids.

The game will feature two of the nation’s top offenses and best play callers in UF coach Dan Mullen and Riley. Oklahoma averages 41.8 points per game, while UF averages 41.6 points.

“Take the over, no matter what it is, take it,” ESPN’s Joey Galloway joked, referring to the over-under point total wager.

The Gators attack, though, will be missing some weapons — how many remains to be seen. Record-setting tight end Kyle Pitts declared for the NFL draft Sunday morning. Later, senior receiver Trevon Grimes posted a cryptic tweet reading, “Forever grateful.”

Opt outs by players, along with entire teams, have been ongoing due, in part, to the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the Alabama loss, Gators quarterback Kyle Trask, a native of Texas, said he did not know who would be available for the game.

“I don’t have a whole lot of information regarding, like you said, opt outs and stuff,” Trask said. “I don’t know about all that. We’ll just have to see in the near future.”

The Gators’ final ranking — ahead of unbeaten Cincinnati, for — may have surprised some observers, but Galloway didn’t take issue with the bowl matchup.

“I don’t believe they should be ranked 7,” he said of the Gators. “So what? I can’t wait to see this matchup.”