BOZICH | Can Louisville stop the S-E-C, S-E-C Express? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Can Louisville stop the S-E-C, S-E-C Express?

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WDRB) – For Louisville, there is the quarterback storyline: Reggie Bonnafon, the playmaker who beat Boston College and Notre Dame, or Kyle Bolin, who threw lasers and saved the day against Kentucky?

For Georgia, there is the relentless running game storyline: Can the Bulldogs hit their rushing average (255) against a Louisville defensive front that gives up 93 yards per game, second best in the nation?

Then there is the storyline that never disappears:

Can the Cardinals achieve something nobody has achieved during this bowl season: beat a team from the Southeastern Conference?

Miami couldn't. West Virginia couldn't. Texas couldn't.

The SEC has started its annual bowl party with three consecutive wins. Louisville's league, the Atlantic Coast Conference, has lost four of seven.

Notre Dame is an eight-point underdog to stop Louisiana State from making the SEC 4-0 in the Music City Bowl, starting at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Then the Cards get their crack at Mark Richt's Georgia team, which has been favored in this Belk Bowl by at least seven points since the game was announced. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.

Louisville did this two seasons ago, toppling Florida in the Sugar Bowl, one of five straight games the Cards have won against SEC programs.

Jake Smith, Louisville's senior offensive guard, understands how this works. He's an analytical guy, headed to law school if professional football doesn't work out.

Smith grew up in Jacksonville, Ala., the belly of SEC country. He has friends who cheer for Auburn as well as Alabama – then cheer for the S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C when another league school finds itself in a bowl game. Smith said his friends are so obsessed with college football that they can break down the secondary play of the opponent their favorite SEC program is playing.

Will there be more sirens and confetti connected to a bowl victory against Georgia?

"Obviously, there is," Smith said. "But you look more into playing a good team because every team in the SEC isn't [as] good as the national perception is.

"But Georgia is a really good team and from top to bottom you have a lot of good teams in the SEC, which is why they've been so dominant lately. We're looking forward to playing Georgia.

"I would necessarily care if it was an SEC draw. But if you get an SEC draw you're going to get a really good opponent, who recruits really well and has really good facilities and a really great fan base. We do look forward to playing an SEC team in Georgia."

Smith, Jamon Brown and the rest of the Cards' offensive line will have to deliver in the area where many opponents struggle against SEC competition – blocking an SEC defensive front.

The wise guys will tell you that is what separates the SEC from other top leagues. More dynamic defensive linemen. Guys who are bigger, quicker, stronger, more relentless.

Make a note of this: Mark Richt's Georgia team went 9-3. Two of the Bulldogs' best victories were against Clemson and Missouri. Clemson ran for 88 yards. Missouri ran for 50.

The Bulldogs lost three games – to South Carolina, Florida and Georgia Tech. South Carolina ran for 175 yards. Florida ran for 418. Georgia Tech ran for 419.

As much as everybody has talked about Bobby Petrino's decision to use Bonnafon or Bolin at quarterback, the Louisville running game likely matters more.

Will Brandon Radcliff have the space that he had while surging to 136 yards against Notre Dame or bouncing into the end zone twice against Boston College and two more times against Kentucky?

Without Michael Dyer, who gets the carries when Radcliff rests? Dominique Brown? Brown had been given one carry in the last five games. L.J. Scott? He's had the same workload as Brown since the North Carolina State game. Those two backs have combined for eight yards in U of L's last five games.

"I wish Michael was with us, but you've kind of got to keep going," Brown said. "Regardless if he was with us or he wasn't with us, the game is going to come. We would have loved to have him here with us and played with us one last time.

"But I feel like we have a lot of guys back there that can run the football so we won't take that big of a hit."

They can do it. But Louisville's running game will have to do it against an SEC front.

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