This season's Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic features one of the most intriguing matchups of the bowl slate, as the Oklahoma Sooners and Florida Gators head to Arlington, Texas, for some pre-New Year's Day action at AT&T Stadium.
The two historic programs have only met one time before when the Gators beat OU in the BCS title game to win the national championship at the end of the 2008 season. Once again, the two teams are packing high-octane offenses led by productive quarterbacks.
Here's what to watch when the Gators and Sooners tussle at Jerry's World.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 7 Florida (8-3) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma (8-2)
Kickoff: Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
Spread: Florida -3
When Florida Has the Ball
Florida head coach Dan Mullen gave his team a pass-heavy offensive identity this season with an average of 40 throws and 30 rushes per game. Quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask threw for an average of 375 yards per game this season, the most in the nation, and he ranked fifth nationally in passer rating at 186.65.
Unfortunately for Trask, he'll be missing his four primary weapons. Tight end Kyle Pitts, along with wide receivers Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney are forgoing the bowl to prepare for the NFL draft. Also, Jacob Copeland is out due to COVID-19. Even wtih Trask at the helm, this offense won't be anywhere close to firing on all cylinders.
Oklahoma could have an absence or two of its own on defense to address. Veteran cornerback Tre Brown is skipping the contest, so the Sooners will count on younger backups such as Woodi Washington and DJ Graham to step up.
Assuming Brown's departure doesn't leave a huge void in the secondary, Florida will have a major challenge on its hands against an OU defense that has been overhauled in the last two seasons. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has built a unit that thrives against fling-it-around schemes like the one run by the Gators.
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
It didn't attract much attention, but the Oklahoma offense took a slight step back this year. The Sooners went from rushing for six yards per attempt in 2019 to 4.1 in 2020. Meanwhile, OU threw for 9.5 yards per attempt, down from 10.9 a year ago.
However, the Sooners can probably find some easy targets in Florida's defensive backfield. The Gators ranked 78th nationally in yards allowed per pass attempt at 7.6 and 93rd in passer rating at 145.6. Consequently, OU head coach Lincoln Riley may opt to turn quarterback Spencer Rattler and a deep receiving corps loose.
The return of running back Rhamondre Stevenson from suspension fortified OU's ground attack down the stretch of the season. If the Gators allow the Sooners to run successfully, it will make Rattler and friends all the more dangerous through the air.
Get ready for points. Bowl games often turn into fireworks displays, and these two teams can score in bunches. So which squad will put more points on the board?
Florida has gone up and down the field against some quality teams this year. We're talking about a team that torched Alabama for 46 points and Georgia for 44. Even with Pitts missing in action, the Gators' relentless throwing game will take advantage of the Oklahoma secondary if the Sooners let up at any point. Of course, OU will send a ferocious pass rush after Kyle Trask when he drops back to throw, testing his ability to get the ball out quickly.
Enough teams have cashed in versus the Florida defense this year to suggest the Sooners will find plenty of scoring opportunities versus the Gators. Rhamondre Stevenson's physical running between the tackles near the goal line should help the Sooners convert those chances into enough touchdowns to stage a minor upset in an entertaining shootout.
Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Florida 38
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— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.