No. 3 Florida Gators (11-1 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 18 Louisville Cardinals (10-2 SU, 5-7 ATS)
Sugar Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Wednesday January 2nd, 2013. 8:30PM Eastern
Where: Superdome New Orleans, L.A.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Fla -13.5/Lou +13.5
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The AllState Sugar Bowl will feature two Cinderella teams on Wednesday January 2nd when the no. 3 Florida Gators meet the no.18 Louisville Cardinals inside the Superdome. The 11-1 Gators came out of virtually nowhere this season to regain their supremacy in the SEC. Coach Will Muschamp put together a measly 7-6 record in his first year in Gainesville last season. However, Muschamp helped lead the Gators back to the top echelon of the SEC in just his 2nd season which was highlighted by a strong running game and outstanding defense. The Gators now return to the Superdome and the venue of their 2009 Sugar Bowl victory with a chance to cap off the season with another Sugar Bowl trophy.
Louisville on the other hand will make their first BCS Bowl appearance since the 2006 Orange Bowl. Head coach Charlie Strong has helped build Louisville into a national power in a short time just like Muschamp. In just his 3rd season, Strong has the Cardinals knocking on the door of national prominence. Louisville ended the season with a 20-17 victory over Rutgers to help seal a share of the Big East Championship and earn the trip to New Orleans with a chance to capture their first Sugar Bowl trophy. Remember Strong was on the sidelines with Florida in 2009 as the defensive coordinator when the Gators won the Sugar Bowl. Therefore it would be memorable upset if the Cardinals could take down his former team as rather large underdogs on January 2nd.
Ironically Louisville has found their success this season in similar ways as Florida with defense as the backbone of the team. The Cardinals defense has given up just 344 yards (25th in FBS) per game this season. Strong has always been a defensive oriented coach and has the Cardinals defense playing gritty like his former Florida guys. However, the talent gap is quite different from the Big East and the SEC which is indicated by the fact that the Gators are favored by nearly two touchdowns.
For the Cardinals to overcome that talent gap, they will have to find a way to move the football against an extremely tough Gators defense that is ranked 5th in the FBS giving up just 283 yards per game. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater gives the Cardinals the best chance to overcome that Florida defense. Bridgewater is performing at a high level this season completing 69% passing for 3,452 yards with 25 touchdowns and just 7 picks. Bridgewater has averaged just less than 300 yards per game this season and it will be his arm that is important in the Sugar Bowl. Teams have struggled tremendously running the football against Florida but the Louisville passing game could be the x factor.
Florida does not have a very flashy or quick striking offense that will blow teams off the field. In fact, the Gators average just 338 yards per game (102nd in FBS) and even worse in the passing game averaging just 143 yards through the air per game (114th in FBS). However, the Gators are very physical up front and have a solid running attack that has posted just less than 200 yards per game this season. Running back Mike Gillislee has been tremendous in Florida’s biggest games this year and has compiled 1,104 yards with 10 touchdowns on the season. The Gators will try to run the football early and often to control the tempo against the Cardinals. Louisville’s bid for an upset will be largely determined by how well Florida is able to run the football.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I believe both teams style of play resemble each other and honestly I am not sure why Florida is laying nearly two touchdowns. The Gators may have trouble against the Louisville defense. Additionally if the Gators don’t come up with a big turnover or make some big plays on offense, Louisville is capable of the upset. I just think this spread is too big for the wrong reasons. The Gators are just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games and I think the number is inflated again. Take Louisville +13.5
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