Allstate Sugar Bowl – Louisville vs. Florida January 2, 2013
The 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl features a strong one-loss Florida Gators team facing off against the Big East champion Louisville Cardinals. Louisville is the heavy underdog in this game and will try to defeat the Gators, whose only loss is against SEC runner-up Georgia. Here is a quick preview of both teams heading into the game and a game prediction.
The Louisville Cardinals went the entire season without playing one nationally ranked opponent. It is safe to say that the Florida Gators will be the best team that the Cardinals have faced this year. The Big East Conference seemed especially weak in 2012 and Louisville is the only team in the conference that finished ranked in the Top 25. After a 9-0 start, Louisville dropped two straight games against Syracuse on the road and UCONN in a close overtime loss at home. A close 20-17 win over Rutgers propelled Louisville into the automatic BCS berth given to the Big East Conference champion.
The Louisville defense has had an up and down year with a few bad performances including allowing 524 yards of offense against Syracuse. The Cardinals are 37th in points allowed per game with 23.8. Their defense does not look to stack up very well against the Gators’ offense.
The Louisville offense has been solid, not not spectacular. The Cardinals average 31 points a game, good enough for 48th in the nation. Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had a good season with 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions while passing for 3,452 yards. The Louisville rushing attack was split by running backs Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry. Perry was having the more productive season until he was lost for the year with a leg injury. In their last game of the regular season, Wright had 22 carries for 17 yards. It is safe to say that the Cardinals rushing attack is in trouble without Senorise Perry and they will have to count on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater if they hope to compete against the Gators.
Florida fans are looking forward to a BCS victory, but are not happy with the current structure of the BCS, and wish the playoff format was in place this season instead of having to wait several seasons. Currently ranked #3 in the country, Florida would be one of the four teams selected for the playoff format, and would have a chance to play for a championship. A close loss to Georgia gave the Bulldogs the spot in the SEC Championship Game instead of Florida, who would’ve then played Alabama. Florida will now have to settle with playing against a Big East opponent who they are heavily favored against.
Florida’s strength lies in it’s defense. They are 3rd in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 12.9 points per game, even while playing a schedule filled with strong offenses in the SEC. The most points they have allowed all year was 26 against Florida State, a game in which they won 37-26. In games against LSU, Missouri, and Kentucky, the Florida Gators only gave up a combined total of 13 points.
On offense, the Florida Gators have received contributions from running back Mike Gillislee and quarterback Jeff Driskel. Gillislee has rushed for over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. Quarterback Jeff Driskel has not been given many opportunities to take over games, but has contributed 1,471 yards through the air, 11 passing touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. On the ground, Driskel has rushed for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns. Although they are scoring only 26.8 points per game, Florida scores more than enough points with the stinginess of their defense.
The game will be controlled by the Florida Gators on both sides of the ball. Louisville has had a great season, but they do not have the talent or the experience to compete on the same level as Florida. Florida will win with ease in a lackluster game.
Betting Line: Sportsbook.ag (December 12, 2013) Florida Gators -14
Prediction: Florida Gators 27, Louisville Cardinals 10 (Florida -14)
*All statistics are from ESPN via ESPN.com