The No. 3 team in the land would have liked to have gotten a shot at the national title, but they’ll have to settle for the Sugar Bowl, which is a pretty respectable consolation game.
The 11-1 Gators survived by their skin of their teeth in several games this season, but their top notch defense stymied just about everyone they played and they’ll need that Gator chomp to bite down hard one more time, as they take on a talented Louisville Cardinals team with a potent offensive attack.
The Big East champion Cardinals come in with a 10-2 record and an offense that scores 31 points per game. They are led by the Big East offensive player of the year, sophomore Teddy Bridgewater, who completed 69% of his passes for nearly 3,500 yards and 25 touchdowns.
After watching the tape on the Cardinals and after preparing for over a month, Florida head coach Will Muschamp understands the challenge his team will be up against in trying to limit Louisville’s production and more specifically, Bridgewater’s effectiveness.
“His efficiency as far as completion percentage is off the charts,” Muschamp said via ESPN.com. “So he’s a guy that gets the ball in the right spots and is obviously very accurate with the football and he’s a winner.”
The Cardinals will certainly bring the heat, but the Florida defense is not only battle tested, but they are battle approved. The Gators come in ranked third in the nation in points allowed (12.9 PPG), behind who else but the No. 1 and No. 2 teams–Notre Dame and Alabama. The saying “defense wins championships” seems to hold true this year as the top three teams in the country have the three best defenses.
And although Florida doesn’t put up a boat load of points, it has been extremely effective when it has the ball in its hands as well, mainly in the run game. The Gators are 34th in rushing, averaging nearly 200 yards per game on the ground this season. This doesn’t bode well for the Cardinals, which struggled at times defending the run this season.
With Florida’s power run game and shut-down defense, there is no doubt it should win the day at the Sugar Bowl, but can it cover the 14-point spread?
Considering Florida’s defense dominated the SEC this year, I don’t think there’s any doubt. Bridgewater picked apart defenses in the Big East this year, but it will be a much different story when he is pressured by the Gator pass rush. This will obviously be the best defense he has face all year and I don’t expect him to be nearly as effective and if he’s not, then the Louisville offense simply cannot operate.
Look for the Gators to control the game with their rushing attack and dominate the defensive side of the ball as well to easily cover the -14 point spread today.