The Sugar Bowl has always been the major post-season destination of the SEC, and only once did the bowl play two teams that didn’t include the SEC from 1950-1995. That tradition continues today, and the Sugar Bowl has established themselves as the SEC vs. Big 12 match-up starting in 2015, ostensibly to rival the Rose Bowl’s B1G vs. PAC-12.
Louisville Scouting Report: Louisville was knocking on the door of an undefeated season this year, and seemed to some to be a legitimate name in the National Title race at 9-0 with three winnable games to go. That all changed in a crushing 45-26 loss at Syracuse, which was followed two weeks later by a 23-20 three overtime loss to Connecticut at home. They finished with a three point win at Rutgers, netting them the Big East Championship by possessing the tie-breaker over Cincinnati (a game they won 34-31 in overtime).
Despite limping home to the championship, Louisville is not a team to sleep on. Their running game is not exactly impressive sitting at 100th in the nation in yards per game, but their passing offense is to be feared. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has connected on 69% of his passes this season, and netted 3452 yards and 25 touchdowns for the Cardinals. Despite the running game being a little behind average, you shouldn’t sleep on it. Running backs Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry have combined for 1445 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season.
Buckeye Connections: The Buckeyes have faced the Cardinals twice in the history of the programs. In both 1991 and 1992, Louisville visited Columbus and gave the Bucks a fight. Ohio State defeated a 2-9 Louisville squad 23-15 in September of ’91, and a 5-6 Cardinals team 20-19 in September of ’92.
Florida Scouting Report: Florida had a much more successful season this year than last, going 11-1 overall, with their only loss to arch-rival Georgia 17-9. For a while Florida was actually in the National Championship conversation despite the loss, though it wasn’t meant to be with Georgia and Alabama sitting above them in the rankings. It must be painful for the Gators to realize they lost out on a championship because Urban Meyer left the cupboard so bare for Will Muschamp. (It’s sarcasm Florida fans, take a joke.)
Florida is not a high level passing team, and in fact sit only a couple spots higher than last place in passing yards per game. They make up for it on the ground, however. Mike Gillislee has 235 carries for 1104 yards and 10 touchdowns, and is joined by mobile quarterback Jeff Driskel with 404 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season. The most critical part of the Florida game is their Defense, where they allow the 3rd fewest points per game at only 12.9 points. In fact, no team has managed to score more than 26 points against them.
Buckeye Connections: Funny, I don’t seem to recall any games against the Buckeyes. This link may help if you’re really curious though.
Despite the unanimous vote, I suspect this game will be a lot better than people think. Louisville is a decent offensive team and will find some success against the Gators. That said, we all know that defense wins championships, and Florida’s defense is tough to ignore. Expect that to be the difference in this game.