Sugar Bowl: Preview and Result
There’s no doubt which team has been picked by many to win at the Superdome on Wednesday night. Florida has captured four straight bowl victories: grabbing a fifth would set a BCS record. The Gators have had an outstanding season, going 11-1 (with a 7-1 mark in the SEC) and was fifth-best in nation in turnover margin at plus-17.
It gets better for Florida. Led by safety Matt Elam, a first-team All-American, the defense ranked third overall in fewest points allowed — a measly 12.9 per game. That’s because opposing quarterbacks completed only 51 percent of their throws and gained a paltry 186 yards per game through the air and only five passing touchdowns, versus 19 interceptions. Need more proof? Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel had his worst game of the season against the Gators, getting a mere 173 passing yards as the Texas A&M Aggies were defeated 20-17 last September.
Does Louisville even stand a chance? The surprising answer is “yes.” After all, the Cardinals started the season on a 9-0 run — then they lost back-to-back games against Syracuse and Connecticut. It was under that cloud that they flew into Rutgers Stadium and beat the Scarlet Knights 20-17 on a 29-yard field goal by freshman John Wallace with less than two minutes remaining. That capped an amazing performance by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who, despite a broken left wrist and a sprained right ankle, came off the bench to direct two second-half touchdown drives and bring them back from a 14-3 deficit.
That comeback earned Bridgewater the Big East Offensive Player of the Year award, and gave them the edge they needed to get the invitation to the Sugar Bowl. It’s tough to rule out anything when a team manufactures an effort like that, especially on the road. This time, though, Bridgewater will face his toughest test trying to move the ball against such a smothering opponent. His counterpart, sophomore Jeff Driskel, has averaged some rather modest numbers: just under 20 pass attempts per game for 133.7 yards. He has thrown for 11 TDs and only three pickoffs.
So while the Gators are used to the pressure of being in a bowl game and the Cardinals are relative newcomers, there are some intriguing wrinkles which could turn this game either way. If Florida’s defense is as punishing as ever, Louisville will definitely be in trouble; if the Cardinals’ offense can move the ball, they have a good shot.
Prediction: Cardinals 24, Gators 21.
RESULT: Louisville jumped out to a 24-10 lead by halftime and never reliquinshed the advantage, eventually beating Florida 33-23.