The Louisville Cardinals will take on the Florida Gators in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and will have enough fire power to upset the highly favored SEC team.
Louisville squeezed into a BCS bowl and a Big East title after beating Rutgers, 20-17. It went 10-2 in the regular season, including wins over North Carolina and Cincinnati.
Head coach Charlie Strong coached off and on at Florida for 14 years before coming to the university three years ago. Several of the Florida seniors were recruited by Strong, especially the defensive players.
Strong said of the game:
Now we have a chance to go to our second BCS bowl in the history of this program. We are playing an outstanding opponent. I don’t know if I really wanted this team with my ties there at the University of Florida, being there for so long and having a relationship with a lot of those players. I ended up recruiting off of that team. But, I’m just so happy for this program. I’m happy for this university and this city.
The Florida Gators, who are ranked third in the BCS standings, were one game away from the national championship with their only loss against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Gators have one of the toughest schedules in the country, with wins over Florida State and LSU.
Gators coach, Will Muschamp, said of Charlie Strong via GatorZone.com, "He does it the right way. Just got a lot of respect for him, one of the good guys in this profession."
This game will have a lot of young and up-in-coming talent that will make it one of the most exciting bowls of the year.
Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan said of the game via AllStateSugarBowl.org:
We're very pleased to have the opportunity to host these two outstanding teams in this year's Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl Committee has worked hard over the years to present outstanding match-ups that produce thrilling games. In Will Muschamp and Charlie Strong, we have two of the country's top young coaches and we know both will have their teams ready to play on January 2nd. We have little doubt that this game will produce another memorable chapter in the great history of the Sugar Bowl.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Where: The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.
Listen: 840 WHAS in Louisville Ky.
Gator IMG Sports Network
Betting Line: Florida -13.5 per VegasInsider.com.
Stars to watch on Louisville
There is one player on the Cardinals that would put fear in any team—Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater has thrown for 3,452 yards with 25 touchdown passes. He is ranked sixth in the country in passing percentage at 69 percent.
The 6'3" sophomore quarterback has had several Heisman-like performances this season. Whether playing hurt or under pressure, there isn't a quarterback in the country that has the poise like Bridgewater. Although he will have a broken wrist on his non-throwing arm, the Gators will do everything they can to contain the young quarterback.
Adrian Bushell was a talented prospect out of high school and was apart of the Florida Gators 2008 class. He then transferred to Charleston Southern in 2010 where he played one year in junior college until Charlie Strong recruited him to Louisville.
The 5'11" cornerback has become a huge asset to the Louisville defense and is one of the better shutdown corners in the game. Bushell was named to the All-Big East first team after this season.
Bushell didn't have a lot of statistics on paper, mostly because quarterbacks refused to throw the ball his way. He ended the season with one interception, 58 tackles and 11 passes broken up.
Stars to watch on Florida
The Gators have one of the most productive rushing attacks in the country, led by Mike Gillislee. The senior running back has 1,104 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
Louisville linebackers will have to stop the screen passes from QB Jeff Driskel to Gillislee, as Gillislee has the speed to break short passes for a huge gains.
Florida prides its self as a defensive team, and one of the major factors its secondary will face will be the difficult task of containing Bridgewater.
Junior Matt Elam is a quick, hard-hitting safety that will try to stop Louisville's big plays. Elam was named to the Walter Camp Second-Team All-American Defense after he recorded 65 tackles, four interceptions and one sack this season.
- Florida will be without outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who went through surgery on his right foot after breaking a bone during the last game against Florida State.
- Louisville averages 31 points per game, and Florida averages 26.8 points per game.
- Florida is third in points allowed per game with 12.9. Louisville allows 23.8 points a game.
- Florida's defense allows just 97 yards per game on the ground. Louisville allows 151.1 yards per game on the ground.
- Louisville averages 298.6 yards passing per game, while Florida averages 143.9.
- Florida has only thrown three interceptions this year and has intercepted 19 total passes this season.
- Louisville is 19th in the country in pass defense, allowing just 193.8 yards a game.
- Florida is 15th in the country in pass defense, allowing 186.4 yards a game.
- Louisville is 0-2 against Florida all-time. The last game between the two happened in 1992 where Florida won 17-3.
- Louisville has a record of 7-8-1 in bowl games.
Many analysts are predicting this to be an easy victory, but Louisville will come into the game unimpressed with the talented Gators.
Expect Strong and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to have some special plays ready for Florida's stacked defense. Louisville will score first on a touchdown pass to Eli Rogers from Bridgewater.
Most of the scoring in this game will happen in the first half, as both defenses will hold and each come out strong in the second half.
If Louisville can turn the Gators over, they will be able to stay in the game.
Unfortunately, Florida's defense is just too dominant and will intercept the ball for a game winning touchdown.
Florida will win 26-21.
Jon Hancock is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
You can follow Jon on Twitter @JonKYSportsCo.