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Allstate Sugar Bowl Preview: Louisville vs. Florida

No. 21-ranked Louisville meets No. 3-ranked Florida in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Gators are currently heavy two touchdown favorites against the Cardinals, and it’s easy to see why: Lousville hasn’t faced a defense as ferocious as Florida’s all season.

“We have played very good defense throughout the year,” Muschamp said. “Offensively, we have done some nice things. We have to be more consistent in getting the ball down the field vertically, but been real pleased with this team.”

Louisville had a great season nonetheless, however, finishing 10-2 due in large part to a much-improved passing game. Behind the strong performance of sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals were 23rd in the nation in passing yardage, averaging 298.6 yards through the air per game. Bridgewater threw for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns. Louisville’s signature moment this season came in their regular season finale against Rutgers, when the Cardinals were down 14-0 to the Scarlet Knights at halftime. However, they stormed back to win 20-17 behind a terrific performance off the bench from Bridgewater. He was banged up in the game, but came off the bench to complete 20 of 28 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. It was a critical moment for a Louisville team that had lost its two prior games to Syracuse and UConn, and Bridgewater’s performance off the bench was heroic enough to get the attention of Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp.

“That was a gutsy performance,” Muschamp said. “His efficiency as far as completion percentage is off the charts. So he’s a guy that gets the ball in the right spots and is obviously very accurate with the football and he’s a winner.”

Florida, however, will most likely prove too much for their Big East opponent. The Gators have dominated games all season with a combination of stout defense and a ferocious rushing attack led by senior running back Mike Gillislee, who has rushed for 1,104 yards and ten touchdowns on the season. Florida has leaned heavily on its rushing attack this season, averaging 194.1 yards on the ground per game, good for 35th most in the country. Louisville and Florida are a study in opposites, in more ways than one: the Cardinals are 100th in the nation in rushing offense, and pick up far more through the air than Florida. Florida averages only 143.9 yards through the air per game, though they don’t need much more than that.

Louisville head coach Charlie Strong is the Gators’ former defensive coordinator, and some have speculated that his ties to Florida could give his new team a competitive edge.

“It’s a program of excellence and I really enjoyed my time there,” he said of his time at Florida. “I watch that program every week. I’m just happy for this program [Lousiville] to get to a BCS bowl game. I don’t really know if it really matters who we play. I love the University of Florida but I’m just so happy for our players.”

Teddy Bridgewater could give the Gators some trouble if at 100 percent in this game, but I think that the Gators defense is far too physical for Louisville to handle. Florida was third in the country in scoring defense this season, allowing only 12.9 points per game, and the caliber of their competition was much higher than Louisville’s schedule. Florida beat four ranked teams this season, including a 37-26 dismantling of then-No. 10-ranked Florida State in the last week of the regular season. I love the Gators at -14 here.

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