Advertisement

Florida Gators headed to Cotton Bowl, will play Oklahoma Sooners

UF is headed to a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl game for the third year in a row.
David Nelson scores the final touchdown in the in the BCS national championship at Dolphin Stadium on Jan. 8, 2009. Florida beat Oklahoma 24-14.
David Nelson scores the final touchdown in the in the BCS national championship at Dolphin Stadium on Jan. 8, 2009. Florida beat Oklahoma 24-14. [ Times (2009) ]
Published Dec. 20, 2020|Updated Dec. 21, 2020

Sunday’s announcement that Florida will be facing Oklahoma in the Dec. 30 Cotton Bowl is a fitting end to the season for Gators coach Dan Mullen.

His last game as a UF assistant was against the Sooners in the BCS title game that gave the Gators the 2008 national championship. Mullen was pulling double duty then, coordinating UF’s offense while serving as the new head coach at Mississippi State. He remembers celebrating the 24-14 win over Oklahoma for a few minutes and posing for a photo or two before getting on a plane to fly to Starkville.

Related: What’s holding the Gators back from winning championships?

The experience was as tiring as anything Mullen had ever experienced. Until the last week, when Mullen was preparing to face top-ranked Alabama in the SEC title game while landing the bulk of a top-10 recruiting class during the early signing period.

“I don’t know if I’ve been more exhausted,” Mullen said.

Turning on the Oklahoma game film won’t help. The Big 12 champions have a prolific offense that will likely lead to a shootout at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Both teams have top-12 scoring offense. UF quarterback Kyle Trask leads the country with 43 passing touchdowns; Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler is tied for eighth with 25.

Mullen and Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley are regarded as two of the top offensive minds in the sport.

Their high-powered offenses have kept the Sooners (8-2) and Gators (8-3) — ranked sixth and seventh by the College Football Playoff selection committee — among the sport’s elite. Only six teams have qualified for New Year’s Six/playoff games each of the past three years: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, Oklahoma and UF.

This marks the first time UF has played in three consecutive major bowls since the Gators played four in a row, starting with the 1993 season.

UF will enter without one of its major weapons, as star tight end Kyle Pitts announced he was skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft, where he’s a likely first-round pick.

“You completely respect it,” Mullen said. “I mean, he’s a guy that has the opportunity to be a top-10 pick in the NFL draft. A phenomenal athlete, a premiere tight end, I think, in the country.”

Neither Mullen nor Riley knew if any other players were also planning on opting out of the bowl game.