Florida should be favored by more than two touchdowns against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – National respect for this University of Louisville football team has been elusive, even though the Cardinals won their first nine games and earned the opportunity to represent the Big East in the Bowl Championship Series.
The Cards have a prime opportunity to change that Jan. 2. They're bound for New Orleans and a game against the Florida Gators in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The game will kickoff at 8:30 p.m. and be televised by ESPN.
Louisville couldn't ask for a better – or more difficult – opportunity to earn respect. The Gators (11-1) were ranked third in the final BCS standings (behind Notre Dame and Alabama). Louisville was ranked 21st. Florida was one of six teams from the Southeastern Conference ranked in the Top 10.
Florida, coached by Will Muschamp, is actually ranked ahead of Alabama in five of six BCS computer formulas.
Several analysts, including David Pollack of ESPN, said that Florida had a resume that compared with No. 2 Alabama, which will play Notre Dame in the BCS championship game. Pollack called the Big East, "absolutely terrible."
"Florida could have a gripe," said ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer, who played quarterback at Florida.
Many of Louisville's top players, led by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, are Florida natives. U of L head coach Charlie Strong, and several of his assistants, coached the Gators before coming to U of L after the 2009 season. In fact, their final game at Florida was a Sugar Bowl victory over Cincinnati.
Louisville earned its place in the game by winning at Rutgers Thursday night. The Cards finished 10-2 overall and 5-2 in the Big East. The Florida game will be a prime opportunity for Louisville to earn national recognition for the 2013 season.
Other quick facts about the game:
*Jeff Sagarin's computer predictor formula favors Florida by 19 points. One Las Vegas website listed Louisville as a 14 1/2 point underdog, the largest underdog in the BCS games.
*Bridgewater's broken left wrist will have more than five weeks to heal, but he will face one of the best pass defenses in the nation. In fact, the Gators rank first nationally in pass efficiency defense and 15th in pass defense, allowing 186 yards per game. Florida also ranks third in scoring defense, allowing 12.9 points per game.
*The Gators held five opponents to 11 points or less -- Kentucky, Louisiana State, South Carolina, Missouri and Jacksonville State.
*Bring your piggybank. I went to the official Sugar Bowl web site to check on ticket prices – and got directed to the Ticketmaster.com site. Seats are available, but this is a premium event.
The best seats I could buy were in section 329, row 17 – and $215.25 each, including handling fees. The least expensive seats were in the third row of the sixth level, which are within the same Zip Code as Mars. They were priced at $148.40.
*U of L is selling its ticket allotment from the school web site -- www.gocards.com. Tickets are priced from $102 to $215.
*Louisville has never beaten Florida. The Cards are 0-2, losing 13-0 in 1980 when Bob Weber was the U of L coach. Howard Schnellenberger battled Steve Spurrier and the Gators in 1992 – and lost 31-17. Both games were played in Gainesville.
*Strong has made four stops at Florida during his coaching career, covering parts of 15 seasons. He last coached at Florida from 2003-09, serving as defensive coordinator the last six seasons.
*Louisville moved to No. 9 in the BCS rankings on Nov. 4, prior to the Cardinals' loss to Syracuse. They slipped out of the BCS Top 25 last week, prior to their victory over Rutgers. The Cards at 21st in the final BCS standings.
*Louisville has a 1-0 record against Southeastern Conference teams in bowl games. The Cards defeated Alabama, 34-7, in the Fiesta Bowl after the 1990 season. That win as well as the Cards' victory over Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl are the signature victories of Cardinal football.
*Big East teams have a 3-4 record in the Sugar Bowl.
*Here are the scores of the last three SEC-Big East meetings in the Sugar Bowl: Florida 51, Cincinnati 24 in 2010; West Virginia 38, Georgia 35 in 2006; and Miami 37, Florida 20 in 2001.
*The teams had one common opponent – Kentucky – this season. U of L opened its season by dispatching the Wildcats, 32-14. Florida defeated UK in Gainesville, 38-0, 13 days later.
*In addition to Bridgewater, here are some other U of L players from Florida: Receiver Andrell Smith, receiver Eli Rogers, defensive tackle Jamaine Brown, linebacker Keith Brown, cornerback Andrew Johnson, cornerback Jermaine Reve; halfback Jeremy Wright (Clermont); Tight end Nate Nord (Boca Raton); linebacker James Burgess (Homestead); defensive end B.J. DuBose (Oakland Park); cornerback Terrell Floyd (Fort Pierce); linebacker George Durant, (St. Petersburg); safety Calvin Pryor (Port St. Joe); defensive lineman Deiontrez Mount (Fort Walton Beach).
*The Gators have one player with Louisville ties – reserve offensive lineman Sam Robey played for Bob Beatty at Trinity High School.