2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl: 5 Headlines for Louisville's Battle Against Florida
The Louisville Cardinals have a huge task in front of them as they prepare to take on the Florida Gators in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl. The game will be played January 2 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and will be shown on ESPN.
The Cardinals and their fans are excited for the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of the nation.
Most will look at this game from the perspective of the highly ranked Gators, who had a chance to play for the national championship. On the other hand, Louisville barely hung on to win the Big East and lost against Syracuse and Connecticut, teams most believe are not top-tier football programs.
Let's look at some of the headlines from the Louisville side.
Jon Hancock is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
You can follow Jon on Twitter @JonKYSportsCo.
Charlie Strong Was an Assistant at Florida
Charlie Strong came to Louisville after being an assistant at the University of Florida for 14 years.
Strong's first job at Florida was in 1983 as a graduate assistant. After his first year he had three additional stints with the Gators, including a post as the defensive coordinator from 2003-09.
As defensive coordinator, Strong helped lead the Gators to national championships in 2006 and 2008.
Strong recruited several players on this year's Florida team, especially on the defense.
Can Strong beat his former team with a Louisville squad that he developed?
This will be the top headline for the game.
Louisville Is a Huge Underdog
The Louisville Cardinals are already predicted to be a 14.5-point underdog against the Gators, and there is a chance that may go up before January 2.
The Cardinals won the Big East in what many believe is a down year for the conference. The competitiveness of the Big East took a hit when West Virginia left and other schools were rumored to be leaving..
Florida comes into the game with a very big and talented defense that allows just 12.9 points a game. They are ranked fifth in the national in total defense, giving up just 283.4 yards a game.
The Gators are also sixth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 97 yards on the ground a game.
Coach Strong said in his press conference Monday that his team is fine with the underdog role and will use it as fuel.
Will This Be Charlie Strong's Last Game at Louisville?
Rumors have been floating around that Charlie Strong will take one of the open SEC coaching positions. Strong, who has had quick success at the University of Louisville in his three years as the head football coach, has been mentioned in openings for Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Charlie Strong said in his Monday press conference, "I'm never going to deal in rumors. People can say whatever they want to about me. They always have. I'm not going to deal with it."
He then refused to answer whether he would be at Louisville next season.
This could easily be a distraction for Louisville players and fans if Strong continues to evade the question.
On a positive note, Strong picked up a commitment from Finesse Middleton, a defensive end from Alabama, and plans to hit the recruiting trail this week.
Middleton said that Strong had told him he is going to stay at Louisville.
“He was like, ‘I ain’t going nowhere no time soon,” Middleton told Steve Jones of the Courier Journal. “I asked him straight up if he was going to leave or had any intention of leaving, and he said, ‘no.’"
Only time will tell what Strong's plans are for the future and fans will just have to wait.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has had a sensational sophomore year and has received a lot of praise from college football analysts from all over the nation.
Bridgewater is ranked eighth in the nation in passing efficiency at 161.62 and has climbed the lists of several Louisville passing records.
The 6'3" quarterback has thrown for 3,452 yards this season and 25 touchdowns.
He came into the Big East Championship game against Rutgers with a cast on his non-throwing arm, due to a broken wrist, and a sprained ankle.
Bridgewater didn't disappoint, leading his team to victory with 263 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Charlie Strong said that Bridgewater should be ready to play in the Sugar Bowl but was not sure if he would require surgery for his wrist.
Being on the national stage will only help Bridgewater's run for the Heisman Trophy next season.
Big East vs. SEC
Louisville won the Big East conference, but when you compare their schedule to the Florida Gators, it is easy to tell who had the harder competition.
Florida's strength of schedule is sixth, according to TeamRankings.com.
The Cardinals lost to unranked Syracuse and Connecticut; the Gators only loss was to the then-No.10 Georgia Bulldogs.
The Big East conference is currently deteriorating. Even Louisville is leaving for the ACC in 2014. A top SEC team playing in a BCS bowl against a team that barely won the Big East conference is going to draw a lot of bad press.
Luckily the game is won on the field and not by rankings or statistics.
Both teams will be ready and will give everything they have to bring home a victory.