NCAA Football Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma/Florida Preview

by Big Al Staff

The first of the New Year’s Six bowl games is Wednesday night in a battle between the Big 12 champion and the SEC runner-up. The Cotton Bowl has Florida facing off against Oklahoma at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Oklahoma opened their season with a 38-35 upset loss at home to Kansas State, which they followed up with a 37-30 upset loss at Iowa State the next week. The Sooners won their next five games to put themselves in the Big 12 championship game. As a 5-point favorite, Oklahoma raced out to a 24-7 halftime lead against Iowa State and held on to avenge their October loss to the Cyclones by a 27-21 score.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler completed 22 of 3 passes of 272 yards with a touchdown pass along with a rushing touchdown. Rattler completed 68.0% of his passes this season for 2784 yards with 25 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He added another five touchdowns on the ground.

The Sooners returned 16 starters from the team that finished 12-2 last year after losing to LSU in the college football semifinals by a 63-28 score. The team not only improved as the season progressed, but they also got two impact players back midseason after they served five-game suspensions. Running back Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for 479 yards in his five games with a 5.8 yards-per-carry average with six touchdowns. Defensive end Ronnie Perkins registered 5.5 sacks in his five games with the team while helping the Oklahoma defense hold their opponents to 16.0 points-per-game and 323.0 yards-per-game, with those numbers being -5.9 points-per-game and 12.6 yards-per-game lower than their season averages.

The Sooners’ defense ranked 19th in the nation by allowing 334.6 yards-per-game. Oklahoma averaged 41.8 points-per-game along with 475.8 yards-per-game, which was ninth and 18th in the country. Led by Rattler under center, the Sooners averaged 321.6 passing yards-per-game, 11th in the nation.

Florida returned 12 starters from last year’s group that finished 11-2 with a 36-28 win over Virginia in the Orange Bowl. The Gators opened 2-0 before losing by a 41-38 score at Texas A&M. Florida would win their next six games before being upset in their final regular-season game at home to LSU by a 37-34 score. The Gators had already clinched a spot in the SEC championship game before that setback. They played Alabama in Atlanta on December 19th, where they kept things close but could never catch up to the Crimson Tide in a 52-46 loss.

Senior quarterback Kyle Trask completed 26 of 40 passes for 408 yards with three touchdown passes along with a rushing touchdown. Trask completed 69.7% of his passes for 4125 yards with 43 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He led an offense that was ninth in the nation by averaging 508.8 yards-per-game and 41.6 points-per-game, 11th in the country. Yet the Gators' defense was 63rd by allowing 28.6 points-per-game and by giving up 404.7 yards-per-game.

Trask will be without his top-four targets in this game. Tight-end Kyle Pitts, along with wide receivers Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney, are opting-out of this game to prepare for the NFL. Jacob Copeland is unavailable given COVID protocols. These four players combined for 174 receptions for 2778 yards with 34 touchdowns this season.

For Oklahoma, only cornerback Tre Jones is opting out of this bowl game. The senior had 31 tackles with three interceptions, and six passed defended.

BookMaker lists the Sooners as a 4.5-point favorite with the total set at 67.5. ESPN has the broadcast starting at 8 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2022 Al McMordie's All Rights Reserved.