Miami Hurricanes (9-3 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. No. 18 Louisville Cardinals (11-1 SU, 5-7 ATS)
Russell Athletic Bowl
Date and Time: Saturday December 28th, 2013. 6:45PM Eastern
Where: Citrus Bowl Orlando, F.L.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Mia +3.5/LOU -3.5
Over/Under Total: 55
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The 9-3 SU Miami Hurricanes will take the short drive up I-95 to meet the no. 18 Louisville Cardinals inside the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida for the Russell Athletic Bowl on December 28th. The Hurricanes were amidst the ACC Championship discussion earlier this season after a perfect 7-0 start that vaulted the team to as high as no. 7 in the polls. However Miami dropped 3 of their last 5 games which took some of the steam out of their impressive start. Still the Hurricanes could rebound and cap off a successful season by capturing double digits wins for the first time since 2003, if they can pull out a victory over Charlie Strong's 18th ranked Cardinals.
The Hurricanes have not fared well in bowl games in recent years. Not only has Miami dropped their last 3 postseason bids, but they have not captured a bowl victory since the 2006 season. However, this has been somewhat of a breakout season for the Hurricanes and Coach Al Golden has the program on the upswing. Perhaps in another year or two, the Hurricanes could return to prominence just as their rivals have done over in Tallahassee. A stepping stone would be capturing a marquee victory over a top opponent which could be accomplished when they meet Louisville in Orlando.
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The Cardinals are arguably the best program in college football that is not from one of the major conferences. Despite the limited competition of the American Athletic Conference, Charlie Strong has done a great job of building the Cardinals into an FBS powerhouse. Strong spent his assistant coaching years in the SEC before taking the head role at Louisville. If you look at Louisville's football program, it has a lot of similarities to his former assistant jobs at Florida and South Carolina. The Cardinals have one of the best defenses in the country and enough playmakers on the offensive side of the football to take care of the rest.
Louisville's defense finished 3rd in scoring yielding just 12.4 points per game and they play their assignments well. The Cardinals defense does not give up many big plays and play their assignments well which present a great match-up with Miami's balanced offense. The Hurricanes main components on offense surround the trio of quarterback Stephen Morris, wide receiver Allen Hurns, and tailback Duke Johnson. Morris has had a rollercoaster ride during his tenure in Miami. The senior has been plagued with inconsistency and interceptions. This season Morris has tossed 21 scores to 12 picks which has been decent. Senior Allen Hurns has been the biggest playmaker in the receiving game catching 60 passes for 1,138 yards and 6 scores. Johnson has also been important in the ground efforts and is closing in on the 1,000 yard plateau.
However, Louisville does a great job of shutting down opponents rushing attacks. Therefore I believe the Hurricanes will need a big game from Morris to pull out the victory. Morris is definitely capable when he is playing well but we will have to wait and see if the turnovers reappear as well. Additionally, the Hurricanes defense will be tested by the quarterback on the other side of the ball. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been labeled the best quarterback eligible for the 2014 NFL draft and he has been terrific throwing the football this season. Bridgewater hit 70.2 percent of his passes this season for 3,523 yards with 28 scores and just 4 picks. Based on the way Miami's defense has been fared against the pass this season, the Hurricanes' will have to play exceptionally well to stand their ground and give their offense a legitimate chance to win.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Neither team has been very impressive against the spread this year as both schools are just 5-7 against the number. However, I believe this is a much bigger mismatch than the 3.5 spread indicates. The Cardinals are better on both sides of the ball and I think that will be apparent when both teams meet in Orlando. I like Louisville to run away with this one against an over rated Miami team. Take Louisville -3.5!
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