When: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Mercedez-Benz Superdome (Sugar Bowl)
The Florida Gators earned an at-large out of the SEC East, and they are taking on Big East Champion, Louisville, in the Sugar Bowl. Florida lost a shot at the conference championship win they lost to Georgia in Jacksonville. The Gators finished the season with one loss, and they were still in the running for a national title spot on the last day of the season. In his second season as the Gators’ head coach, Will Muschamp has returned the Gators into a defensive juggernaut.
The Louisville Cardinals started the season with nine straight wins, but they lost their shot at perfection against an underrated Syracuse squad. The Cardinals finished the Big East season in a four way tie, and earned the BCS berth with a win over Rutgers. They were the highest rated team in the Big East, and got the nod for the Sugar Bowl. Coach Charlie Strong flirted with other jobs, but he signed a lucrative deal to stay on at Louisville.
The game looks to be a very strong defensive battle up front. Both teams rank in the top 25 defensively, and they have had weeks to prepare.
The Gators offense can be non existent at times. They struggle in the passing game when they aren’t getting turnovers. Without efficient passing, it’s difficult for Florida to sustain balance throughout a whole game. However, if they have their running game working, Florida will try to wear the defense down. They have no problem keeping the ball in the hands of Mike Gillislee. He averages over four yards per carry, and scored 10 rushing touchdowns this season. Quarterback Jeff Driskel has only thrown three interceptions this season. While he only has 11 passing touchdowns, Driskel and the Gators hardly ever beat themselves.
Florida’s defense creates havoc for their opponents. They tackle very well, and dominate teams in the running game. The Gators play well in both facets defensively. They only have two fumble recoveries this season, but they have 19 interceptions. They will try to make Louisville a one dimensional passing team. Their opponents only average 12 points per game.
Louisville will need to get up early in this game. If they are able to get their offense to score, Florida’s game plan may change. The Cardinals average 31 points per game, and Teddy Bridgewater is the type of player that can hurt Florida. He’s completed 69 percent of his passes and has also thrown 25 touchdown passes. The offensive line must protect Bridgewater, and the receivers have to find ways to break free from the defense. Most importantly, Teddy Bridgewater needs to keep his turnovers down.
The defense should be able to handle Florida’s offense early. They will be tested against the Gators’ power game. Louisville has only forced 11 turnovers, so they must play sound fundamental football. Jeff Driskel is a threat to leave the pocket against Louisville. The defensive ends and backers must be aware of his running ability.
Louisville is trying to prove that they belong in the Sugar Bowl. They will win if their quarterback is the best player on the field. Florida will win if their defense dominates the game. The Gators are a second half team, and they are going to use the power game for four quarters.
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