No. 7 Florida Gators Selected For Cotton Bowl Vs. No. 6 Sooners; Kyle Pitts To Prepare For NFL Draft
ATLANTA—The No. 7 Florida Gators have been selected to face the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl on December 30, the College Football Playoff selection committee announced Sunday afternoon. The selection comes after Florida fell 52-46 to No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday night in Atlanta. The Gators stayed the same in the rankings however and earned a third straight New Years Six bowl bid largely due to the close game versus the nation's best team.
This will be a rematch of the 2008 National Championship, when Florida won their third National Championship and Tim Tebow defeated the Oklahoma Heisman winner Sam Bradford.
Tight end Kyle Pitts will not play in the bowl game and will forego his senior season as he prepares for the NFL Draft. He is projected to be a first round pick. The new record holder for receiving yards by a Florida tight end (1,492 yards) broke the previous record held by Aaron Hernandez (1,382). Pitts’ 12 receiving touchdowns this season are the second-highest total by a tight end in SEC history. Vanderbilt’s Allama Matthews (14 in 1982) holds the SEC record.
Pitts released a statement on social media thanking UF, coaches and more when revealing his intentions:
"First I would like to thank God for an opportunity to play football and get an education at the University of Florida. I've always wanted to play in the SEC and the University of Florida has allowed me to have the best experience both in the classroom as a Top 10 public institution and on the field. I want to thank Coach Mullen for believing in me and my potential and helping me prepare for the next step in my life. Also, I would like to personally thank Coach Scott and Coach Brewster for molding me into the player I am today. Most importantly, I would like to thank my parents Theresa and Kelly because they sacrificed a lot in order for me to get where I am today. Finally, I would like to thank Greg Garrett, who has been a mentor and someone who has believed in me since day one.
"In addition, I would like to thank the support staff of the athletic trainers, equipment managers and everyone in the football facility. The people I interact with every day are what makes coming to the university of Florida to play football so special. I have many great memories during my three years at Florida and I will always be a Gator. I hope to continue to make Gator Nation proud through my career. I will forever miss running out the tunnel on Saturdays with my brothers in front of 90,000 fans. I know it is time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.
“After much prayer and consideration and speaking with my family, I will forego my senior season and enter the 2021 NFL Draft and will not be playing in the bowl game. I am eager to pursue my dreams of playing football in the NFL but I will always be a Gator. 84 out!”
Head Coach Dan Mullen said after the game Saturday night that the locker room mood was bittersweet, knowing it would likely be the last time this team played together. He effaced whether or not that mean the Gators would turn down a bowl bid (as many teams have done with COVID cases spiking) and said media would make whatever they wanted of his comment. But as a full team, this would likely be the last time the 2020 Gators played together, seemingly referring to opt-outs.
"A little bit somber," he said of the mood.
"It's probably the last time this team ever plays together. That's a tough deal. I think there was a lot of guys that really care about each other, have really worked hard to get here to this point. I know there's a great deal of disappointment in the locker room, but there's also a lot of respect for everything that everybody on this team went through and did for this year. There's a lot of love for the guys and the family that this team is.
"That was really the last time this team will play together, I imagine. Whatever the future holds, I imagine this team as a whole of how it is will be the last one played here."
More opt-outs could follow. Last season, the Gators had only one player opt-out of the bowl game, Top 10 pick corner C.J. Henderson.
Whatever roster does travel to Dallas will have a tall task. As Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said on Thursday—ironically when recalling the 2008 SEC Championship game loss to the Florida Gators—"I think one of the most difficult things that you have to do, or that I've ever had to do, is when you lose the SEC championship game, get your team ready to play the next game. That's always been really, really difficult."
The ? Bowl will be an opportunity though, to avoid the worst loss record under Dan Mullen during his time at Florida and a chance to prove the Florida Gators are building a sustainable Top 10 contender.