Florida vs. Oklahoma: Pick, prediction, spread, odds, line, time, live stream for Cotton Bowl game 2020

By Adam Silverstein
December 30, 2020
Florida vs. Oklahoma: Pick, prediction, spread, odds, line, time, live stream for Cotton Bowl game 2020
Football

Image Credit: Michael Nash

The Florida Gators conclude the 2020 college football season proverbially limping into the Cotton Bowl, a game it will play for the first time in program history. Florida will be appearing in its third straight New Year’s Six game under head coach Dan Mullen but doing so with a limited roster and a season heading in the wrong direction. (See: injuries & absences.)

The Gators enter Wednesday evening’s bowl game losers of two straight. The first, a mind-numbing and inexcusable home loss to LSU, was followed by a hard-fought yet heartbreaking 52-26 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Florida aims for a rebound on Wednesday, but it will do it with significantly reduced personnel against a team heading in the opposite direction.

While Florida has lost consecutive games and has no momentum on its side, quite the opposite is true for the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners, which have won seven straight games, including a 27-21 win over Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship Game. Whereas the Gators have been unable to solve their defensive woes this season, the Sooners have tightened up, not allowing more than 28 points in a game since Oct. 10 — and that was a four-overtime game.

Florida’s three losses this season are by a combined 12 points, and Oklahoma’s tow defeats are by a combined 10 points. However, the Gators have faced much more adversity and distraction entering this game than the Sooners, which are looking to win their first bowl game since head coach Lincoln Riley took over in 2017.

What will go down Wednesday evening as Florida and Oklahoma square off for just the second time ever in a Cotton Bowl meeting? Let’s find out.

Tale of the tape

No. 7 Florida GatorsNo. 6 Oklahoma Sooners
Head coachDan MullenLincoln Riley
Record8-36-2
ConferenceSECBig 12

Injuries and absences

Opt outs (4): TE Kyle Pitts, WR Kadarius Toney, WR Trevon Grimes, CB Marco Wilson
COVID-19 (1): WR Jacob Copeland
Questionable (3): LB Jeremiah Moon (foot), LB David Reese (shoulder), DB Rashad Torrence II (shoulder)
Reported out (2): LB Ventrell Miller, DL Kyree Campbell
Out: (1): S Shawn Davis (undiclosed)
Out for season (1): DB Ethan Pouncey (hip)
Unavailable (?): TBA

Florida was expected to be a favorite over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, but a rash of expected opt outs have it entering the game as an underdog. The Gators lost all four of their top offensive playmakers ahead of the bowl game with Pitts (a junior), Toney and Grimes opting out to preserve their health ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft as Copeland tested positive for COVID-19. Combined, those four accounted for 65% of Florida’s receiving yards and 74% of its receiving touchdowns this season. And that does not include Toney’s work in the run and return games.

The next four pass catchers replacing them accounted for 957 yards and six touchdowns on the season, numbers that fall short of just Toney’s production (984 yards, 10 touchdowns). The Gators will also be without Wilson, who opted out, though he is not enough to affect expectations. The defense looks to be down three starting linebackers with the reported absence of Miller, and the defensive line will take a hit with Campbell reportedly out. Florida’s roster has been heavily dinged entering the game — particularly from an offensive standpoint where it has succeeded.

Viewing information

Date: Wednesday, Dec. 30 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, Texas [20,000]

TV: ESPN
Live stream: WatchESPN | SiriusXM: 84| Radio: WRUF, TuneIn
Live updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Game notes

» Florida is 1-0 all-time against Oklahoma with a 24-14 victory in the 2019 BCS Championship Game.
» The Gators have never played in the Cotton Bowl, while the Sooners are 1-1 in two appearances. UF is 0-1 at AT&T Stadium, while OU is 5-2.
» Florida is making its third straight New Year’s Six bowl appearance (2-0), while Oklahoma is playing in a New Year’s Six or College Football Playoff game for the sixth time (1-4).
» The Gators are 24-21 all-time in bowl games with three straight victories (2-0 under Mullen). The Sooners are 29-23-1 with three straight losses (0-3 under Riley). OU’s 54 bowl appearances are the fourth-most ever, while UF’s 46 are the 14th-most.

» Under Mullen, Florida is 21-2 when scoring first, 25-2 when leading after the third quarter, 19-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer and 21-0 when outrushing its opponent. Both losses when scoring first and leading after the third quarter came this season. UF is now 7-7 when being outrushed by an opponent and 6-4 in games decided by 10 points or less.
» Florida is 5-5 against ranked opponents (4-4 against top 10 teams) and 23-3 against unranked teams under Mullen.
» Mullen began his career 29-6 through 35 games, the best start in program history with Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier both going 27-7 through 34.
» The Gators’ 33 sacks this season are the most in the SEC and sixth in the nation, and its 70 tackles for loss are second-most in the league.
» Florida has scored 462 points through 11 games, scoring an average of 42.0 points per game.
» The Gators have scored 24+ points in 26 of their last 28 games and had scored 34+ points in 10 straight games, the longest stretch in program history. Eight of those came against SEC teams, also a record.
» Florida has scored 161 offensive touchdowns in 37 games under Mullen. It scored 93 in 38 games from 2015-17. UF has also scored 50+ points five times under Mullen compared to five times over 101 games from 2010-17.
» UF has scored in 409 consecutive games, an NCAA record.
» Florida lost to an opponent that finished the season with a losing record for the first time since 2004. UF and Alabama were the only two FBS teams without such a distinction over the last 12 seasons.

» Redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Trask’s 43 touchdown passes leads all other QBs nationally by 11. It’s the eighth-highest total through 10 games in FBS history, though all of Trask’s have come against SEC competition. Those 43 TDs are the most for a single-season in program history.
» Trask is the first player in program history to throw 4+ touchdowns in six straight games. He previously set an SEC record for most TDs through the first six games of a season and tied an FBS record for most through six games in the last 20 seasons (28). Trask is also the first Gators signal caller to throw for 6+ touchdowns twice in a single season and the third to do it in his career (Wuerffel, Trey Dean).
» Florida is the only team in the nation with three players who have caught 8+ touchdowns (Pitts, Grimes, Toney). That has only happened one other time in program history (1996) and rarely happens in any given season. All three also have 30+ receptions and 400+ yards receiving.

Prediction and analysis

Spread: Florida +4 | O/U: 64

As noted earlier, Florida opened as a 3-point favorite over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, but the spread has shifted a touchdown and could move more than 10 points due to the Gators’ personnel losses. This would not have been the case if they had even half of their top playmakers available, but losing all four clearly makes this a more difficult task at hand for a team that has lived and died this season on offense. Though UF has lost about two-thirds of its offensive production, redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Trask will be under center. Trask is a Heisman Trophy finalist, but it appears less and less likely he will contend to win the award after being passed over by most award and All-America team voters since the conclusion of the regular season. Trask could have opted out of this game but instead chose to lead Florida one last time and do so in his home state of Texas for the second time this season. You can bet he will be amp’d up and spreading the ball around, but when the names change from Pitts, Toney and Grimes to Keon Zipperer, Justin Shorter, and Xzavier Henderson, your offense is going to take a hit.

On the defensive side, the Gators will be without multiple potential starters, and while that has been the case all season, they are really coming to a head here. Wilson’s absence is notable as, despite his uneven play and poor decision making, he looked worse than he actually was on the field considering Florida’s defensive scheme, which is also unchanged entering this bowl game. However, the Gators will also be without three linebackers, including leading tackler Ventrell Miller (per reports) and defensive lineman Kyree Campbell (per reports) as well. Oklahoma will be shorthanded with one of its top defensive backs out, which should open things up at least a bit. The Sooners enter with the better defense, but the Gators can pressure the quarterback and create some disruption.

Ultimately, this is a tough game to get a read on and there’s no true advisable reason to pick it in either direction. Florida feels like it should be the lean if the spread pushes to +7.5. However, as it sits at +4, Oklahoma has to be the play considering all of the absences on both sides of the ball for UF. The total should be expected to go over as not once this season have the Gators played a competent offense and the game not exceeded that mark.

2020 records: ATS picks 6-5 | O/U picks 4-7 | Overall: 10-12

Odds and ends

» Florida will wear its classic orange helmets, white jerseys and white pants as the away team in the 2020 Cotton Bowl.

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