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Five things to know about Florida-Oklahoma game: UF missing Kyle Pitts, others

Zach Abolverdi
Gainesville Sun
[Courtesy of Cotton Bowl]

No. 7 Florida (8-3) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma (8-2) at Cotton Bowl

TV: 8 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN. Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850. Favorite: Sooners by 7 points (according to BetMGM). 

1. UF missing key pieces

The Gators have the nation’s No. 1 passing offense, but quarterback Kyle Trask will be missing his top four pass catchers against Oklahoma. Junior tight end Kyle Pitts and senior receivers Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney all opted out of the Cotton Bowl to begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft, while redshirt sophomore receiver Jacob Copeland won’t play Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19. Florida’s offense may not be as pass heavy with those absences, but it could be difficult to run the ball against the Sooners. Oklahoma boasts the No. 3 rushing defense in the country, allowing an average of just 90.6 yards per game on the ground. The Gators rank 109th nationally in rushing offense at 120.5 yards a game. Their lowest totals of the season came in two of the last three games (19 yards at Tennessee and 54 yards vs. Alabama). UF redshirt junior cornerback Marco Wilson will also reportedly skip the bowl game along with Oklahoma starting cornerback Tre Brown, who has declared for the 2021 NFL draft. 

More:With Pitts, others out, ‘huge opportunity’ awaits Florida’s young receivers, tight ends

2. High-scoring offenses

After competing in the highest-scoring SEC Championship Game in league history, the Gators could be in for another shootout in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas. They have the nation's No. 11 scoring offense, averaging 41.6 points per game. Oklahoma ranks two spots ahead of them at 41.8 PPG. Both units have put up more than 50 points in three games, including back-to-back 62-point performances by the Sooners. However, they have scored a season-low 27 points in each of their last two games. UF hasn't been held in the 20s this season, with its lowest scoring output coming at Tennessee (31 points). Oklahoma is allowing only 21.9 points per game, its lowest average since 22 points a game in 2015, while the Gators are giving up 28.6 PPG and coming off two of their worst defensive performances of the year. 

3. Opposite streaks

After winning six games in a row, UF has dropped its last two against LSU and Alabama. While there’s no shame in losing to the top-ranked Tide, especially a one-score game, LSU’s upset win at The Swamp put a stain on the Gators’ season and ultimately eliminated them from consideration as one of the nation’s top four teams. Despite their dashed hopes of an SEC title and CFB playoff berth, third-year coach Dan Mullen isn’t concerned about his players not getting up for the Cotton Bowl. “It doesn't take a whole lot of motivation to want to go and play in that game,” Mullen said. “You look across at the opponent that you have, that's the motivation you need to go play.” After starting the season 1-2 with losses to Kansas State and Iowa State, the Sooners have bounced back with seven straight wins. They won their rematch with the Cyclones, 27-21, in the Big 12 Championship Game. 

4. Wednesday’s game questions

•How does Kyle Trask perform without his top pass catchers? 

•Can Florida’s rushing offense generate some production?

•How many sacks will the Gators give up against Oklahoma? 

•Can Florida keep QB Spencer Rattler under 300 yards passing?

•Will UF’s defense hold the Sooners below their scoring average?

Click back Thursday for Abolverdi’s answers

Abolverdi’s pick

Oklahoma 38, Florida 31

5. Key matchup

Florida’s offensive line vs. Oklahoma pressure:

Through the first nine games the Gators had allowed only 10 sacks and no more than two in a game, which happened just twice. In their losses to LSU and Alabama, however, they gave up a total of nine sacks. Trask was brought down five times against the Tide, including a costly sack fumble in the fourth quarter. Florida’s offensive line ranked near the top of the SEC in sacks allowed earlier this year, but is now tied for seventh. The unit will face another tall task when it lines up against Oklahoma’s defensive front, featuring All-Big 12 selections Ronnie Perkins, Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey. The Sooners rank No. 6 in the country in sacks per game (3.6) with 36.0 on the season. The Gators, meanwhile, lead the SEC with 33.0 sacks and Oklahoma ranks 84th nationally in sacks allowed, so the Sooners O-line will have their hands full as well.