Sugar Bowl 2013: Florida vs. Louisville TV Info, Predictions and More
The venue will be far more familiar for the Florida Gators (11-1) than it will be for the Louisville Cardinals (10-2), but it is the Cardinals that come into the game as a conference champion. This will be Florida's ninth appearance in the Sugar Bowl while Louisville will be making its first trip ever.
Florida was selected to play in the Sugar Bowl after finishing No. 3 in the BCS. Louisville was thought to be headed to Miami for the Orange Bowl, but BCS buster Northern Illinois caused those plans to be changed.
Florida and Louisville have played just twice in their history, with Florida coming out on top in both games. This game may not stand out initially, but there are plenty of storylines to follow leading up to the game.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know leading up to the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
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Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
When: Wednesday, January 2, 2013, 8:30 p.m. EST
Radio: ESPN Radio
Live Streaming: WatchESPN
Betting Line: Florida -13 1/2 (via pregame.com)
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As we mentioned before, there are plenty of storylines to keep you interested in this matchup.
Charlie Strong coaching against his previous school
Charlie Strong has a long history at the University of Florida. Strong was a linebacker coach in 1988-89, an assistant head coach and defensive line coach from 1991 to '94, and he returned to Florida where he served as the defensive coordinator/assistant head coach/interm head coach from 2002 to '09.
Strong was the defensive coordinator for two of the Gators' three national championships.
Will Charlie Strong still be coaching at Louisville?
The last time Florida played in the Sugar Bowl, it faced a Cincinnati team that had just lost head coach Brian Kelly to Notre Dame. Louisville could be facing the same fate as Strong's name has been mentioned among several teams with coaching vacancies.
Louisville has a lot of former Gators on its team
When Charlie Strong left Gainesville, he didn't go alone. Joining Strong at Louisville were three other former Gators coaches: Vance Bedford, Kenny Carter and Tommy Restivo.
The Cardinals also have three former Gators players on their roster. Adrian Bushell is a starting cornerback and punt returner for Louisville, while Robert Clark and Gerald Christian are sitting out this season after transferring a year ago.
Clark and Christian were high school teammates of Matt Elam and part of Florida's 2010 recruiting class. Bushell was part of the 2008 recruiting class.
Florida's bowl game winning streak
Florida has had a lot of success in the postseason. The Gators have won their past four bowl games and six of their last seven.
Will Muschamp is 1-0 in bowl games at Florida and this will be the first time he has led the Gators to a BCS bowl game.
Is this the last game for Florida's talented juniors?
Matt Elam, Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd and Jordan Reed are all eligible to enter the NFL draft. Floyd and Elam are both projected as borderline first-round picks and could be playing their final game in orange and blue.
Easley has struggled to stay healthy this season after going through ACL surgery in the offseason and he could benefit from another season in school. Reed needs to work on his blockig and become a more complete tight end, it would be a mistake for him to leave early as another productive year in school could drastically improve his draft stock.
Florida Depth Chart and Injury Report
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LT: Xavier Nixon, D.J. Humphries
LG: James Wilson, Ian SIlberman
C: Jon Harrison, Sam Robey
RG: Jon Halapio, Kyle Koehne
RT: Chaz Green, D.J. Humphries
TE: Jordan Reed, Clay Burton
RB: Mike Gillislee, Matt Jones
QB: Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett
FB: Hunter Joyer, Trey Burton
WR (X): Frankie Hammond Jr., Latroy Pittman
WR (Z): Quinton Dunbar, Raphael Andrades
F: Trey Burton, Omarius Hines
DE: Dominique Easley, Jonathan Bullard
NT: Omar Hunter, Dominique Easley
DT: Sharrif Floyd, Damien Jacobs
BUCK: Lerentee McCray, Dante Fowler Jr.
Sam: Neiron Ball, Darrin Kitchens
Mike: Jon Bostic, Michael Taylor
Will: Antonio Morrison, Michael Taylor
CB: Loucheiz Purifoy, Brian Poole
SS: Matt Elam, Jaylen Watkins
FS: Josh Evans, Jabari Gorman
CB: Marcus Roberson or Jaylen Watkins
Nickel: Matt Elam, Jaylen Watkins
Dime: Matt Elam, Brian Poole
K: Caleb Sturgis, Brad Phillips
P: Kyle Christy, Todd Fennell
KR: Omarius Hines, Trey Burton
PR: Marcus Roberson, Trey Burton
OUT: Jelani Jenkins (foot), De'Ante Saunders (hamstring), Ronald Powell (knee), Collin Thompson (foot)
Louisville Depth Chart and Injury Report
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LT: Alex Kupper, Aaron Epps
LG: John Miller, Kamran Joyer
C: Mario Benavides, Mike Romano
RG: Jake Smith, Josh Stearns
RT: Jamon Brown, Ryan Mack
TE: Nate Nord, Ryan Hubbell
RB: Jeremy Wright, Senorise Perry
QB: Teddy Bridgewater, Will Stein
WR (X): DeVante Parker, Andrell Smith
WR (Z): Damian Copeland, Jeremy Wright
WR (H): Scott Radcliff, Eli Rogers
DE: B.J. Debose, B.J. Butler
NT: Brandon Dunn, Jamaine Brooks
DT: Roy Philon, Sheldon Rankins
Fox: Marcus Smith, B.J. Butler
Sam: Deiontrez Mount, George Durant
Mike: Preston Brown, Tyon Dixon
Will: Daniel Brown, James Burgess
CB: Adrian Bushell, Terell Floyd
SS:Hakeem Smith, Jermaine Reve
FS: Calvin Pryor, Gerod Holliman
CB: Andrew Johnson, Charles Gaines
K: John Wallace, Matthew Nakatani
P: Ryan Johnson, Joshua Applebee
KR: Adrian Bushell, Senorise Perry
PR: Kai Dominguez, Scott Radcliff
OUT: Michaelee Harris (knee)
Florida Player to Watch: Mike Gillislee
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The Gators don't try to hide who they are. The offense goes through Mike Gillislee, and when the running game is working it is hard to stop the Gators.
Florida will line up and try to dominate the line of scrimmage and should be able to run the ball effectively against Louisville's No. 53-ranked run defense.
If Florida can get Gillislee going it will be a long day for the Cardinals.
Louisville Player to Watch: Teddy Bridgewater
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Teddy Bridgewater is one of the most exciting young players in college football.
The sophomore from Miami completed 69 percent of his pass attempts on the way to 3,452 yards and has 25 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.
Florida will be the biggest test that Bridgewater has faced in his career, and he will need to protect the football and make some plays for Louisville to come away with the upset.
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Louisville's front seven vs. Florida's running game
Florida is averaging 194.08 rushing yards a game. The Cardinals are giving up 151 rushing yards a game.
Mike Gillislee has run for more than 1,100 yards this season and became the first Gator to surpass 1,000 rushing yards since 2004.
Teddy Bridgewater vs. Florida's secondary
Bridgewater has done of good job of protecting the football this year. His 25 touchdowns to just seven interceptions is an impressive stat but this will be far and away the toughest defense he has ever faced.
The Gators have created 29 turnovers this season, including 19 interceptions. Louisville cannot win this game if they don't win the turnover battle.
Florida Will Win If...
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The running game gets going and they protect the football
Florida needs to run the football to be effective. Florida has struggled passing the ball this year and has really relied on their running game.
On paper, Florida is more talented than Louisville. The Gators are bigger, stronger, tougher and faster than their opponents. Protecting the football will keep momentum from swinging toward the Cardinals and Florida's defense and special teams should be able to hold off Louisville for most of the night.
Louisville Will Win If...
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They stop the run, win the turnover battle and control the clock
That seems easy enough right?
The formula for beating the Gators starts with stopping the run. That goes for every team that Florida has played this season, and this game will be no different. Florida is going to run the football. Stop it, force them to pass and you have a shot at beating Florida.
Turnovers have been crucial for the Gators this season. Florida has one the turnover battle in every game this season except one. They lost that game to Georgia. If Louisville can stop the run and force Jeff Driskel to throw the football they could be able to create some interceptions and swing momentum in their favor.
Florida has won the time of possession battle in all but two games this season. This allows the Gators to wear down the opponent's defense with their running game.
The Cardinals need to flip the script on the Gators and control the clock. Florida's defense has been lights out this season, but they haven't had many games where they have been on the field more than the offense. If Louisville's offense can stay on the field and wear the Gators defense out, they can hang around long enough to pull off the upset.
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Florida is just too much for Louisville.
Louisville is not a team Florida should take likely, but the things Florida does well offensively Louisville has failed to defend well this season. Florida is going to be able to run the ball against Louisville's No. 53 ranked rush defense. Louisville needs to be able to swing momentum with turnovers but ranks just No. 61 with 21 takeaways this season.
Florida's defense will be too much for Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals offense. Florida comes into the game with the best defense as far as passer efficiency in the country holding opposing quarterbacks to just a 91.5 rating per game.
Florida will win the 2013 Sugar Bowl and finish the season 12-1. Quite a turnaround for a team that finished last season 7-6.
Prediction: Florida 31-17