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Sugar Bowl: Louisville vs. Florida — Everything You Need to Know

Louisville faces a stifling Florida defense in the Sugar Bowl.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater leads Louisville into its second-ever BCS bowl game. But he’ll be tested by the Florida Gators and one of the nation’s toughest defenses.

ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL: #21 Louisville (10-2) vs. #3 Florida (11-1)

[Wednesday, January 2, at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN]

How They Got Here

After starting the season 9-0, Louisville lost two of its last three but was able to defeat Rutgers in the season finale, giving the Cardinals the Big East title tiebreaker and the conference’s automatic BCS bid. Florida rode the strength of a stifling defense to an 11-1 record and, with SEC champion Alabama headed to the BCS title game, was awarded the Sugar Bowl spot as an at-large team.

When Florida Has the Ball

It’s no secret that Florida has gotten it done this year with defense. The Gators rank 104th nationally in total offense and 118th in passing. Quarterback Jeff Driskel certainly doesn’t have flashy numbers, but has been effective, throwing 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He’s also rushed for 404 yards and four scores. Florida’s one real offensive threat is all-SEC running back Mike Gillislee, who has run for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns. He should be able to have some success against a Louisville defense that ranks just 52nd in rush defense and has struggled against the run in recent weeks, giving up 184 yards per game in its last four games (compared with 134.6 in its first eight).

When Louisville Has the Ball

Florida boasts one of the nation’s best defenses, ranking third in scoring and fifth in total defense. They will certainly pose the toughest test of the season for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was named Big East offensive player of the year after passing for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns this year. The sophomore has been battling a broken wrist and a sprained ankle, but should be close to full strength in time for this game.

What to Know

Louisville beat Wake Forest in 2007 in its only previous BCS appearance. Florida, meanwhile, has been a BCS mainstay. The Gators are making their seventh BCS appearance (only Oklahoma and Ohio State have more). They are currently riding a four-game bowl winning streak. Florida is 2-0 all-time against the Cardinals, but the two haven’t played since 1992.

What to Watch For

Louisville ranks just 100th nationally in rushing offense, so their chances of an upset rest squarely on Teddy Bridgewater’s shoulders. Look for Florida’s defense to sell out to go after him early. The Gators held Heisman winner Johnny Manziel to a season-low 173 passing yards and, if they can have similar success containing Bridgewater, should be able to come out with their fifth straight bowl win.

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