Saturday night’s Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla. will most likely represent Teddy Bridgewater’s last game as a Louisville Cardinal. Not only that, but Bridgewater also returns to his home state and will play against the team he originally committed to in the Miami Hurricanes.
This will be an exciting game to watch with dynamic players all over the field creating some very intriguing matchups. Which of these dynamic offenses will prevail? What will each team’s mindset be heading into this game?
Strength vs. Strength: Louisville Passing Offense vs. Miami Passing Offense
The matchup between Louisville (11-1) and Miami (9-3) will feature a multitude of explosive offensive weapons on each side and two quarterbacks that will likely be playing on Sundays in the very near future. With questions on defense for both teams, and neither having a particularly imposing rush offense, this game should be an offensive aerial shootout.
QB Pass TotalsQB Pass Totals
Team Averages and NCAA Rank
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First, let’s start with Louisville. Led by Bridgewater, the Cards offense runs like their quarterback’s game—efficient and explosive. On the season, Bridgewater has thrown for 3,523 yards with 28 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions, all with an impressive 70.2 completion percentage.
Helping those numbers are Louisville’s pair of dynamic receivers, DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland. On the season Parker has 46 receptions for 743 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Copeland finished with 52 catches for 690 yards and five touchdowns.
Expect both of these weapons to have big games against a questionable Miami secondary that has been exposed by many teams with lesser passing attacks throughout the year.
For Miami, it all starts with senior quarterback Stephen Morris. The Miami offense goes as he goes, which explains why they’ve been very up and down throughout the season.
Morris has shown flashes of brilliance—throwing two beautiful touchdowns in the first half against Florida State—but he's also had many moments of bewilderment—tossing two questionable picks in the second half of that same game. He finished the regular season with only a 58.7 completion percentage, throwing for 2,868 yards with 21 TDs and 12 picks.
Miami has two receiving weapons of their own in Allen Hurns and Stacy Coley. Hurns, who was recently named team MVP at Miami’s awards banquet, had an outstanding year finishing the regular season with 60 catches for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns.
As good as Hurns was this year, Coley may be even more explosive and will be the X-factor in this game. In only six starts this year, he had 30 receptions for 559 yards and seven touchdowns. Along with his receiving stats, Coley also had a rushing TD, punt return TD and kick return TD on the season, making him someone Louisville will have to pay extra attention to.
In the end, this game should come be an offensive shootout. With so many explosive weapons on the field for each team, it may come down to who has the ball last to determine the victor.
The Mindset Battle: Louisville’s Disappointment vs. Miami’s Hunger
A big question coming into the Russell Athletic Bowl is what each team’s contradicting mindsets will be like. Louisville has had a bit of a letdown season after coming in with so much hype and expectation after upsetting Florida in last year’s Sugar Bowl, whereas Miami has made the most of their tough situation, managing nine wins and coming in hot to their first bowl game in two years.
At the beginning of the season, Louisville was everyone’s favorite dark horse for the national championship and thought to be a lock for a BCS bowl bid. Now that has changed, will that disappointment affect their mindset and play in this game?
October 18 was when it all came crashing down for the Cards. That night they suffered their lone defeat to Central Florida, 38-35, which in turn defined the rest of their season. After the heartbreaking loss, Louisville has not been the same.
In the team’s final three games of the season, they barely squeaked by Houston in a 20-13 win, nearly lost to Memphis in a 24-17 victory and then miraculously were able to force overtime against Cincinnati and thanks to Bridgewater. These types of efforts simply won’t be good enough against Miami.
If the Cards’ mindset and play reflect their last couple games, they won’t stand a chance.
For Miami, they are coming off a self-imposed two-year bowl ban and are sure to be hungry as they finally get their postseason reward. Will their hunger to be in this game be able to trump Louisville’s disappointment?
With Louisville joining the ACC Conference next season, Miami will have yet another reason to be riled up—wanting to give their budding rivals a nice welcome to ACC play.
The Hurricanes will have every incentive to come out fired up, defending their home state and ready to knock off the Cardinals. We will see if Louisville can match that intensity or if they will show up with a disappointed mindset thinking where they could’ve been instead.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong will have a tough time getting his team completely ready to go for a bowl game that they did not envision playing in at the beginning of the season. Based on their most recent play, the Cards' mindset seems to be elsewhere, which is worrisome when going up against a Miami squad that has played well as of late.
However, Miami’s overall inconsistent play throughout the season and its lack of a strong defensive presence will give Louisville hope and will create a tight contest. This game should be an offensive shootout with all the weapons that will be on the field and may very well come down to the last possession.
Even with the possible lack of motivation for Louisville, in the end, expect Teddy Bridgewater to pull off one more miracle and lead a comeback to beat the 'Canes in Orlando.
Final Score: Louisville 41, Miami 38
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