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LOUISVILLE vs. FLORIDA
Wednesday, Jan 2, 8:30 pm
Judging by the spread, the Sugar Bowl between Big East champion Louisville and BCS No. 3 Florida should be a mismatch. But the Cardinals are likely to be highly motivated as they are playing in just their second BCS bowl – the first being the Jan. 2, 2007, Sugar Bowl, which Louisville won over Wake Forest. Louisville was ranked in the Top 10 after winning its first nine games, but that might have been fool’s gold as not one of the teams was ranked. The Cards then lost back-to-back games at Syracuse and vs. Connecticut – so, yeah, you can see why they should lose to Florida – before beating Rutgers 20-17 in a defacto Big East title game. Star QB Teddy Bridgewater played that game (he didn’t start) with a broken left wrist and couldn’t take snaps under center. The Big East Offensive Player of the Year certainly will play and start in this game and should be mostly healed with the month or so off. BCS bowls used to be old hat for Florida, but this is the Gators’ first since the 2009 season. But UF still thinks it belongs in the BCS Championship Game with the quality of competition it beat. And it might have been if not for coughing up the ball six times in a loss to Georgia that still stings.
The one common bond between these teams is Louisville coach Charlie Strong. He was a former Florida defensive coordinator who was hired at Louisville in 2010. And Strong recruits the Sunshine State like a madman to this day. In fact, the Cardinals have a whopping 35 players from Florida, which is more than twice as many as any SEC school other than the Gators I think. And no matter what happens in this game, Louisville will be happy. That’s because Strong decided not to take the Tennessee job and got a nice new extension. Had Louisville not been given an ejector seat from the dissipating Big East to the ACC, Strong probably would have left. Strong’s last game with the Gators was that Sugar Bowl win over the Bearcats. Bridgewater, who is from Miami and originally committed to the Hurricanes before changing his mind after Randy Shannon was fired, completed 69 percent of his passes for 3,452 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven picks this year (No. 7 nationally in rating). But considering Louisville didn’t face a single ranked team, he’s in for a likely rude awakening against Florida. The Gators have the nation's No. 1 pass efficiency defense (91.5 rating), and that unit is also No. 3 nationally in allowing 12.9 points per game, fifth in total defense and sixth in rushing. I know all this cause Bobalou and I do a lot of number crunching when it comes to bowl season.
The Gators, meanwhile, don’t throw much and rely heavily on workhorse running back Mike Gillislee. He pretty much single-handedly beat LSU and had 140 yards and two scores as UF rallied past FSU in the regular-season finale. All UF coach Will Muschamp asks starting QB Jeff Driskel to do is manage the game and not turn it over. Driskel usually obliged. In that UF loss to Georgia, Driskel had two picks. Louisville’s defense ranks No. 16 nationally against the pass and No. 25 in total defense.
For what it’s worth, both these teams played Kentucky this year. The Cards won at home 32-14 in their season opener. The Gators routed the Wildcats 38-0 a few weeks later in Gainesville. Here’s what stands out: UK had 373 yards and 24 first downs against Louisville and 219 and 12 vs. Florida. Florida had great success against a quarterback similar to Bridgewater, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. He was just 18-of-33 for 182 yards with one TD, three picks and a fumble. He did run for a 22-yard score as well, but the game was over by then. Realistically the only chance Louisville has to win is to win the turnover battle significantly. However, the Gators have forced 29 of them and have a plus-17 turnover margin. I can’t see Louisville winning, but I think Florida is conservative enough for the Cards to just cover and I have Florida winning this game by only a field goal. So that said and certainly we have almost 3 weeks until kickoff I am taking Lousiville plus a couple touchdowns to make things interesting, will also take a shot on the money line if the odds are right. I am leaning towards the under but that will come later. As I posted weeks ago rolling with the Under but you know the drill and looking for Louisville to make this a real entertaining game.
Whether you care or not. There is a HUGE middle if you played Louisville not to mention if you took the money line as mentioned. You can literally grab 4.50-1 money line odds and possibly cash a 2nd half wager on Florida.
You can also take the Over in the 2nd half to hedge Louisville wager because if you lose the Louisville wager it has to go Over and again you can cash both wagers very likely. Fingers crossed. Just saying.