Louisville vs. Florida: Breakout Stars to Watch in Sugar Bowl

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIIJanuary 2, 2013

Mike Gillislee
Mike GillisleeSam Greenwood/Getty Images

The No. 3 Florida Gators take on the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals in the Sugar Bowl Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Both teams are stocked with talented players, many of whom are poised for breakouts. In fact, this game features many players who will become stars in the NFL next season.

Which players are poised to breakout, both in this game and in the NFL? Read on to find out.


Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

The junior defensive tackle has not yet declared for the draft, but that could change with a dominant performance in the Sugar Bowl. After all, dominant performances have become quite customary for Floyd, who has been nothing short of outstanding this year. The 6'3", 303-pound lineman has 11 tackles for loss, one sack and six quarterback hurries.

While many tend to evaluate defensive linemen on sacks alone, remember that in many cases a quarterback hurry is as effective as a sack. Floyd was a constant presence in the opposing backfield and caused quarterbacks to leave the pocket and make mistakes.

The Louisville offensive line is not their strong point and Floyd could have a field day going up against sophomore guards Josh Miller and Jake Smith. Additionally, the Cardinals do not have the best run game, running for only 127 yards per game, which is 100th in the country. The team is also without running back Senorise Perry, who leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns.

Floyd should be able to get consistent penetration and keep the Louisville running game in check. He's going to have a huge performance, and he will get noticed by NFL evaluators, who will most likely select him in the first round, should he leave early.


Adrian Bushell, CB, Louisville

This Florida transfer has flourished in Louisville and is primed for one more big game before entering the NFL. The 5'11", 184-pound corner spent his freshman year in Gainesville before spending a year at a junior college, eventually ending up at Louisville. He's been a rock in the secondary for the Cardinals, and this year was no different. He had a team-high 11 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, 59 tackles and an interception. 

The All-Big East first team defender is thin but has been a shutdown defender all year. He'll most likely be asked to cover Quinton Dunbar, who has 306 receiving yards on the year. 

But the Gators have a poor pass offense and average only 143 yards in the air per game, which is 118th-best in the nation. To put that in perspective, there are 124 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Look for Bushell to continue his lockdown defense and to see his draft stock rise.


Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida

The senior running back has had a fantastic season for the Gators. He's rushed for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He should have a field day against a weak Louisville rush defense. The Cardinals give up an average of 151 yards per game. 

Gillislee is the first Gator back to rush for over 1,000 yards since 2004 and will be selected in the early rounds of the 2013 NFL draft. 

Gillislee is coming off a terrific performance against Florida State, the nation's No. 1 rush defense. He rushed for 140 yards and two scores.

This will be a fun game for Gillislee and will send his stock soaring as the NFL draft draws near.