Passers in spotlight as OU, UF collide in Cotton Bowl
The only other time Florida and Oklahoma have played, in the BCS Championship following the 2008 season, the focus was largely on the quarterbacks.
This time around, with the Gators’ Kyle Trask and Sooners’ Spencer Rattler, the position is once again front and center when the teams meet in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 30 in Arlington, Texas.
That first meeting featured a pair of Heisman winners in Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford.
While Rattler isn’t a Heisman contender, yet at least, and Trask’s chances to win the award probably disappeared with Florida’s recent two-game winning streak, both have been critical in their team’s success.
They’ve also taken wildly different routes to stardom.
Rattler was a five-star phenom in the Phoenix area who had his pick of schools before choosing to sign with Oklahoma.
He was among the Heisman favorites by oddsmakers entering this season even though he had never started in college.
The redshirt freshman put together a strong season, throwing for nearly 280 yards per game, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 68.0 percent of his passes.
“(Rattler) can run around, extend plays, scramble, and make things happen with his feet as well as having a really live arm,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said.
Trask had none of the hype.
He wasn’t even the starting quarterback at his high school, instead serving as the backup to D’Eriq King, now Miami’s quarterback.
But Trask stuck with the team and eventually drew the attention of Florida coaches, who offered him a scholarship.
Trask, now a senior, didn’t get a serious opportunity to start for the Gators until last year when Feleipe Franks suffered a season-ending injury.
Trask’s numbers last season during his eight games as a starter are nearly identical to Rattler’s – 277.5 passing yards per game, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Their team’s 8-2 records in those games are even identical.
But Trask has emerged as a star this season, throwing for 4,125 yards and 43 touchdowns – 11 more than any other FBS quarterback – with just five interceptions.
“He’s done a really good job of using the weapons,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “They’ve got a tremendous scheme that really features what he does well. But you can see, having watched him a little bit more last year, you can see obviously the improvement he’s made.”
Trask will be without one of his top targets for the game. Tight end Kyle Pitts, the favorite for the Mackey Award as the top tight end in college football, announced he was opting out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft.
While Oklahoma’s offense has garnered plenty of attention since Riley arrived, the Sooners (8-2) have their best defense in recent years. The defense is keyed by their front, which is averaging 3.8 sacks per game, sixth-best in FBS, while allowing just 90.6 yards per game on the ground, No. 3 nationally.
Florida (8-3) has struggled defensively in spots this season, including recently, allowing an average of 511.5 yards and 44.5 points per game in losses to LSU and Alabama.
–Field Level Media