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No. 10 Gators get No. 8 Oklahoma in Cotton Bowl

Meeting will be rematch of 2008 national championship game
Florida Gators QB Kyle Trask leaps into end zone vs. Alabama Crimson Tide in 2020 SEC Championship
Posted at 4:35 PM, Dec 20, 2020

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Although the Gators may have fallen short of their championship aspirations, at least they can try to replicate that championship feeling of the Tim Tebow era.

No. 10 Florida (8-3, No. 7 College Football Playoff) will face No. 8 Oklahoma (8-2, No. 6 CFP) in the Dec. 30 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It's a rematch of the 2008 national championship game.

Florida Gators QB Tim Tebow passes vs. Oklahoma Sooners in 2009 BCS National Championship
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow looks to pass during the BCS National Championship game against Oklahoma, Jan. 8, 2009, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Gators will play in a New Year's Six bowl for the third time in as many seasons under head coach Dan Mullen.

Florida's only previous meeting against the Sooners was a 24-14 victory in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game to conclude the 2008 season. The game, played in South Florida, gave the Gators their third national championship in school history and second in three years.

Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen in 2020 SEC Championship
Florida head coach Dan Mullen watches his team against Alabama during the second half of the Southeastern Conference Championship game, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Atlanta.

Mullen was coaching his final game as the Gators' offensive coordinator after accepting the Mississippi State job.

"I know it was a crazy time for me because I had been, I was the head coach at Mississippi State and then came back to coach the game and call the game as the coordinator for Florida," Mullen recalled Sunday while speaking to reporters. "I do know this, I don't know if I've been more exhausted. Maybe this year is more exhausting with everything we've been through this year."

The Gators, who got off to an 8-1 start, lost to LSU at home and No. 1 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Championship game in each of the last two weekends.

While the Gators have dropped two in a row headed into the bowl game, Oklahoma has won seven consecutive games, including a 27-21 victory over Iowa State to win their sixth straight Big 12 Conference championship.

The Sooners won't be playing in a semifinal game for the first time since Lincoln Riley took over for Bob Stoops in 2017. But they know a thing or two about winning at AT&T Stadium, home to the Big 12 title game.

Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley hoists 2020 Big 12 Conference trophy
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley hosts the Big 12 Conference championship trophy after defeating Iowa State 27-21, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Arlington, Texas.

"I mean, we love playing there," Riley told reporters. "It's been a great stadium. We've had some pretty good memories over the last several years."

Mullen is 2-0 in New Year's Six bowls at Florida. The Gators will be making their first Cotton Bowl appearance in school history.

With the game just 10 days away, Mullen said intends to give the players some time off before the team begins preparations for Oklahoma.

"This season has been like no other, the grind," Mullen said. "I don't think anybody understands. Obviously, there's a physical grind and the toll it takes on everybody's body to play, even to be able to continue to play the season, and then you add that mental grind on the players. So, we're giving our guys off through Christmas right now. We'll do everything virtually to do some scouting reports and some installation virtually, just to let those guys recover both physically and mentally before the bowl game."

Riley said he hasn't made a decision yet about how the team would handle bowl preparations.

"Christmas is tough, where it falls on this game, both in proximity to the game and then, obviously, with COVID," he said.