No. 4 Florida vs. No. 22 Louisville
Wed., Jan. 2 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
New Orleans – Louisiana Superdome
It’s hard to consider a team that lost to Syracuse and Connecticut a threat to Florida, but we aren’t going to rule out any squad coached by Charlie Strong.
We also won’t make a fuss about Strong going against his old team. Yes, he was the defensive coordinator for a pair of Florida national championships before taking over the top spot at Louisville, but he won’t be suiting up.
What he will do, however, is have the Cardinals well prepared to take advantage of this massive opportunity.
Florida (11-1), which has allowed only five touchdown passes this season, has one of the best defenses in the country.
That theory will be put to the test by Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore from Miami (one of 17 Floridians on the Cardinals’ roster) has completed 69 percent of his passes for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns, against seven interceptions.
Bridgewater finished out the regular season playing with a broken wrist and sprained ankle. It’ll be fascinating to see how he does against the Gator defense, which ranks first in the country in pass efficiency defense.
Florida has a far less dynamic triggerman in Jeff Driskel. His mission is more about not losing the game than winning it, leaving the heavy lifting to Mike Gillislee, who is the Gators’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004.
The senior running back was at his best in the big games, rushing for 146 yards and two scores in a 14-6 win over LSU, and 140 yards and a pair of TDs in Florida’s most recent outing, the 37-26 victory at Florida State.
Louisville (10-2), which has the seventh best rushing defense in the Big East, doesn’t figure to hold up well against the Gator ground game and some are expecting this to be similar to the 2010 Sugar Bowl in which Florida dismantled Cincinnati, 51-24.
The game might degenerate if the Cardinals fail to stay within striking distance and place Bridgewater in harms way too often, but we believe this will be a four-quarter contest.
Opening point spread: Florida by 15
The pick: Florida 34-26
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