When Florida and Louisville face off in the Sugar Bowl, they're going to exploit their matchup advantages early and often as they gun for a BCS bowl victory.
Playing on one of the biggest stages in college football, these teams' strengths and weakness will both be more apparent. The Big East champ and the SEC runner-up have each had a month to prepare for this game, and they'll know exactly what buttons to press to give their opponent fits.
Let's take a look at some key matchups in the upcoming Sugar Bowl and how they will frustrate the Gators and Cardinals.
WR DeVante Parker vs. Florida's Red Zone Coverage
Florida has a great secondary, but it's just so difficult to beat DeVante Parker for a jump ball.
Louisville's leading receiver caught just 38 passes this season, but the big wideout made life miserable for opposing defensive backs. Standing 6'3", 205 pounds, the sophomore used his size and athleticism to pull in nine touchdowns this season, scoring on nearly a quarter of his receptions.
Regardless of what corner Florida throws at Parker, he will have the advantage in terms of size and strength. The Gators might be able to shut him down between the 20s, but if Louisville targets Parker in the end zone, he's likely going to come down with the ball.
RB Mike Gillislee vs. Louisville's Run Defense
Unless the Cardinals completely revamped their rushing defense in their bowl prep, Louisville is about to get run off the field.
Serving as the featured back for the first time in his collegiate career, Florida's Mike Gillislee picked up 1,104 yards this season on 4.7 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns. That's fine production from the senior, solid yet unspectacular, but that's more than enough to gash Louisville.
Louisville has been mediocre stopping the run this year. The Cardinals allowed 151.08 rushing yards per game, a disappointing 52nd in the nation.
Unless the Cardinals have found a flaw in Florida's rushing attack, Gillislee and the Gator offensive linemen are going to pound the ball at will through the Louisville defense.
Louisville Secondary vs. QB Jeff Driskel
As well as Florida will be able to run the ball, Jeff Driskel is going to have trouble beating the Louisville secondary.
Driskel is the leader of one of the worst passing offenses in the country. The Gators have thrown for just 1,727 yards this season, putting them 114th in the NCAA in passing offense. That's the second-worst mark of any team from an automatic-qualifying conference, trailing only Georgia Tech and its triple option attack.
Led by former Gator and current first-team All-Big East cornerback Adrian Bushell, Louisville is more than capable of rendering Florida's passing game useless. It's a good thing Florida is so ready to pound the rock; they're not going to get anything through the air.
HC Will Muschamp vs. HC Charlie Strong
Charlie Strong is going to have his work cut out for him coaching against his former team.
The one-time Florida defensive coordinator knows firsthand how fearsome SEC athletes are, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Forced to scheme against Jonathan Bostic, Matt Elam and the rest of Florida's defense, Strong will have to get creative, or he'll get blown off the field.
It comes down to this: Will Muschamp's players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, are fundamentally-sound physical freaks.
Florida is bigger, faster, stronger, smarter and even meaner than Louisville. That's a testament to Muschamp's recruiting and motivating alike, and its a level of excellence that Strong will struggle to match.
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