Sugar Bowl 2013: 9 Florida Starters Who Are Better Than Louisville Counterparts
The 2013 Sugar Bowl pits the Florida Gators against the Louisville Cardinals. While matchups against Oregon or Oklahoma would have been sexier for Gator fans, Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals are a worthy opponent and should give the Gators a good game.
Charlie Strong got his first coaching job at the University of Florida and was the defensive coordinator for the Gators until 2009. Strong helped recruit some of the players still on the Gators roster and should be familiar with his opponent.
Louisville is making just their second trip to a BCS bowl while the Gators will be making their seventh BCS bowl appearance.
Even though Louisville comes into the game as a conference champion, the Gators appear to have more talent on paper. Let's take a look at nine Florida starters who are better than their Cardinals counterparts.
9. Kyle Christy
Counterpart: Ryan Johnson
Kyle Christy had a great season and was named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. Christy is averaging 46.10 yards per punt which makes him the sixth ranked punter in the country.
Ryan Johnson comes into the game ranked No. 86 in the country, averaging 39.46 yards per punt.
Christy's punting has pinned opponents deep inside their own territory and has dug the offense out of holes all season long.
8. Caleb Sturgis
Counterpart: John Wallace
Caleb Sturgis was named a Lou Groza Award finalist for the second season in a row. Even though Sturgis came up short, he still had a great season and career at Florida.
Sturgis was also named a Sporting News first team All-American.
On the year, Sturgis was 23-of-27 on his field goal tries and 32-of-33 on extra points. Sturgis is about as automatic as any kicker in the country, and anytime he is on the field Florida should expect to put points on the board.
John Wallace is a very good kicker. This season Wallace is 14-of-17 on his field goal attempts and connected on 35-of-39 extra point attempts.
Yes, Wallace is good, but Sturgis is one of the best kickers in college football.
7. Jordan Reed
Counterpart: Nate Nord
Jordan Reed quickly became Jeff Driskel's favorite target this season. Reed comes into the bowl game with career highs in catches (44), yards (552) and touchdowns (three). Reed's play has kept drives alive all season, and he has shown that he is a true threat with the ball in his hands.
Despite having a much more potent passing attack than the Gators, Louisville relies more on their receivers than their tight ends. Nate Nord comes into the Sugar Bowl with just 13 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Reed is a much bigger part of the offense and a much more dangerous player than Nord.
6. Jon Bostic
Counterpart: Preston Brown
Preston Brown had an unbelievable season. The Junior linebacker finished the regular season with 95 tackles, one interception, 1.5 tackles for a loss and three passes broken up. Brown earned second team All-Big East honors for his performance this season.
With numbers like that it could be hard to proclaim that many players are better, but Jon Bostic is a special player.
Bostic finished the season with 61 tackles, 6.5 for a loss, two interceptions, three sacks, two passes broken up and a forced fumble.
At first glance the tackles look very lopsided but when you take a closer look Brown had only five more solo tackles than Bostic this season. More than half of Brown's tackles (52) were assisted while most of Bostic's tackles (38) were unassisted. Bostic also put those numbers up against five teams that are currently ranked in the BCS whereas Louisville doesn't have a team on their schedule that is ranked in the BCS.
5. Loucheiz Purifoy
Counterpart: Adrian Bushell
Adrian Bushell was part of Florida's 2009 recruiting class. Bushell chose to transfer to Louisville and is having the best season of his career. He earned first team All-Big East honors tallying 44 tackles, one interception and 11 passes broken up and also returned 17 kickoffs this season, averaging just under 20 yards per return.
Loucheiz Purifoy has been arguably the best playmaker for the Gators this season. Purifoy has developed into the most physical cover corner the Gators have, and his play on special teams has been huge.
On the year, Purifoy has 51 tackles, three forced fumbles, two blocked punts and five pass breakups. Purifoy's blocked punt against Louisiana Lafayette set up a miracle win for Florida, and his forced fumble on the first play from scrimmage against South Carolina set the tone of the game.
4. Sharrif Floyd
Counterpart: Roy Philon
Making the move back to defensive tackle from defensive end made all the difference for Sharrif Floyd. This season Floyd has 41 tackles, 11 for a loss, one sack, six quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
Floyd was even more disruptive than his stats indicate. Floyd was double teamed on almost every snap this season and being able to handle two offensive linemen at a time created opportunities for the rest of the defense. Floyd was also named a Sporting News first team All-American.
Roy Philon had a productive season. He came in with 24 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, 2.5 sacks and a quarterback hurry.
Philon is a productive player for Louisville, but Sharrif Floyd is a man among boys.
3. Dominique Easley
Counterpart: B.J. Dubose
Dominique Easley is one of the most interesting players on Florida's roster. He is a great player and has a very productive season coming off of ACL surgery this past offseason. Easley finished with 21 tackles, five for a loss, four sacks, one pass break up and two quarterback hurries. Easley was also an emotional leader for the defense this season.
B.J. Dubose is just a sophomore and is still learning and growing as a player. Dubose finished the year with just 14 tackles, .5 for a loss, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup.
2. Mike Gillislee
Counterpart: Jeremy Wright
Jeremy Wright had a very good season for the Cardinals this year. The junior carried the ball 186 times for 740 yards and nine touchdowns. He added 38 receptions for 306 yards and a score. Wright split time with fellow junior Senorise Perry who carried the ball 136 times for 705 yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding 18 receptions for 181 yards.
Mike Gillislee was a workhorse for Florida this season. The offense was run through the senior tailback. Gillislee carried the ball 235 times for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns. Gillislee added 15 receptions for 146 yards and a score.
Gillislee became the first Gator to run for 1,000 yards in a season since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
Gillislee's 1,104 yards came against some stiff SEC defenses while Wright and Perry were able to rack up stats against defenses like Temple and Southern Mississippi.
1. Matt Elam
Counterpart: Hakeem Smith
Like his teammates Sharrif Floyd and Caleb Sturgis, Elam was named a Sporting News first team All-American.
Elam had a breakout season for the Gators, tallying 65 tackles, 10 for a loss, five pass breakups, one forced fumble and four interceptions.
Hakeem Smith had his best season for Louisville in 2012. Smith totaled 66 tackles, two for a loss, six pass breakups and one forced fumble.
While Smith had a good season, Elam made game-changing plays on a weekly basis and was one of the best safeties in the entire country.