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Miami-Florida (9-3) vs. (18) Louisville (8-4)



Saturday, December 28, 6:45 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: Teddy Bridgewater will lead the 18th-ranked Louisville Cardinals, perhaps for the last time, as they take on the Miami-Florida Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.

One slip up was the difference between a second straight BCS Bowl bid this year for Louisville, which largely lived up to its preseason billing. The Cardinals rolled to an 11-1 victory on the campaign but a 38-35 loss to UCF in mid-October dashed any hopes at a BCS or even national title shot. It is that loss that might define the season , as even though the Cardinals did not lose again after, neither did UCF, keeping Louisville from a consecutive conference title.

Dwelling on what could have been won't help now, as the Cardinals prepare for their 18th bowl appearance in program history. It is also their fourth in as many years under head coach Charlie Strong, whose success at the helm has grabbed the attention of some major programs with coaching vacancies. Strong's teams have gone 2-1 in bowl games, including the stunning 33-23 win over No. 4 Florida in the Sugar Bowl last season.

This matchup is an important one for Miami. Though the Hurricanes had records that made them bowl eligible in the past two season, a self-imposed postseason ban while the program was investigated by the NCAA kept them out. Now head coach Al Golden gets to walk the sidelines during a bowl game for the first time in his three years as Miami's head coach.

The third campaign under Golden was the best yet. The Hurricanes roared out of the gate, winning their first seven games and rising to No. 7 in the Top 25. The fun stopped there when they were routed by Florida State (41-14) and then defeated by Virginia Tech (42-24) and Duke (48-30) in the next two games. Miami recovered for wins in its last two bouts to finish the regular season at 9-3. The nine wins match the most since 2009. A win against the Cardinals would give the Hurricanes 10 wins for the first time since 2003 and first time as an ACC squad.

Even with the ban, the Hurricanes still have a longer history in the postseason than Louisville. The Hurricanes have been to 34 bowl games previously, though they have lost each of their last three.

In terms of head-to-head history, there has not been much parity between these programs. Miami has a 9-1-1 record all-time against the Cardinals. Louisville did win the last showdown, a 31-7 rout in 2006.

The Hurricanes have gradually improved offensively during Golden's three seasons and the 2013 campaign was no different. The Hurricanes ranked third in the league in total offense (446.8 ypg) after finishing fifth a year ago.

Unfortunately the loss of leading rusher Duke Johnson (920 yards, six TDs) during the Florida State game has left the Hurricanes with a bit less punch. Filling in for Johnson has been a combination of Dallas Crawford (523 yards, 12 TDs) and Gus Edwards (300 yards, four TDs). Crawford has gotten more of the work, and had been producing well in a complementary role before Johnson's injury.

Johnson's injury also made Golden shift his philosophy offensively a bit as the Hurricanes had more passing plays than rushing in three of their final four games. Benefiting from the additional work was quarterback Stephen Morris. On the season Morris has accumulated 21 touchdowns and 2,868 yards, on 58.7 percent passing. He was guilty of 12 interceptions during the regular season. However, he really stepped up down the stretch and had just a pair of picks in the four games without Johnson.

Morris' top receiving options will be good to go as Allen Hurns (60 receptions, 1,138 yards, six TDs) and Stacy Coley (30 receptions, 559 yards, seven TDs) each have a chance to build on already strong campaigns. Hurns was a second-team selection for All-ACC honors and had over 100 yards in six games, including the last four. Herb Waters (28 receptions, 406 yards, five TDs) and Clive Walford (30 receptions, 372 yards, two TDs) will also figure into the equation.

The Hurricanes have not been as impressive on the defensive side this season. It is a surprising development since Golden built up his reputation while the head coach at Temple on a defense-first mentality. This season Miami has ranked second to last in the ACC in yards allowed (415.8 ypg). Denzel Perryman (104 tackles) anchors the unit, and was the only defender on the team to be named to either the first or second All-ACC team. Tracy Howard (32 tackles, four INTs) may not have been selected, but he did help the Hurricanes create the third-most turnovers in the ACC (27).

Now, the Miami defense has to deal with Bridgewater, a test Golden has not undersold to his team at all.

"He has speed, good corps of receivers, knows how to distribute the football, doesn't make many mistakes with the football, can move in the pocket," Golden said. "It�s going to be a great challenge for our corners and safeties."

Even though he didn't get an invite to New York City as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, it would be ridiculous to say Bridgewater had a disappointing year. The Cardinals's signal caller, who is still being pegged as the No. 1 overall pick in May's NFL Draft, has thrown for 3,523 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Golden is right about him not making mistakes as well with Bridgewater completing 70.2 percent of his pass attempts and being intercepted only four times.

Led by Bridgewater the Cardinals were the second best offensive team in the American Athletic Conference this season, averaging 453.1 yards of total offense per game.

"There is a lot of talent over here on the offensive side of the ball," Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "We have developed an offense. We raised these kids. Last year, our defense was growing, so the offense had to take on a larger role. This year, we have done it as a team."

The most talented unit outside of quarterback has to be the receiving corps. DeVante Parker (46 receptions, 743 yards, 11 TDs) and Damian Copeland (52 receptions, 690 yards, five TDs) are two of the best pass-catchers in the country, let alone the AAC. Parker was named to the conference's first-team and even though he did not earns such honors, Copeland had 115 yards on eight receptions in the only game Parker missed. Eli Rogers (41 receptions, 498 yards, four TDs) and Gerald Christian (26 receptions, 401 yards, four TDs) are also important players.

The tandem of Dominique Brown (783 yards, eight TDs) and Senorise Perry (631 yards, six TDs) keeps the team moving on the ground. Brown is the closest thing to a feature back the Cardinals have, but sharing the load is the real game plan.

For how strong they are offensively, the Cardinals are even better on defense. They rank behind only Michigan State in total defense (257.9 ypg) and Alabama and Florida State in points allowed (12.4 ppg). Louisville placed six defenders on the All-AAC teams, highlighted by Marcus Smith (12.5 sacks) and Calvin Pryor (69 tackles, three INTs). The balance from the front to the secondary is evident with Lorenzo Mauldin (9.5 sacks) and Charles Gaines (five INTs) also putting forth impressive campaigns.

The Hurricanes' strength on defense is in the secondary, but the unit hasn't proven itself much this season. Facing Bridgewater, who hasn't been affected by much at all this season, is a monumental task indeed. Without Johnson, the Hurricanes won't have enough balance on offense to overcome Louisville's stout defense.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 31, Miami-Florida 24

12/25 09:26:33 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
Final
ECU 70
UNC 41
Final
TOWSN 31
NCCU 20
 
Final
NCSU 42
PRES 0
 
1:30pm Today
CAR
CLB
 
8:30pm Tonight
CAR
PIT
Final
KAN 2
DET 3
Final
CHC 8
LOS 7
Final
OAK 0
PHI 3
Final
NYY 3
TOR 6
Final
COL 5
ARI 1
Final
BAL 7
BOS 2
Final
PIT 0
MIL 1
Final
TAM 3
CWS 1
Final
MIN 3
CLE 7
Final
ATL 2
NYM 4
Final
HOU 10
SEA 1
Final
MIA 2
WAS 3
Final
STL 8
CIN 4
Final
SDP 3
SFG 2
Final
ANA 8
TEX 5
 
1:05pm Today
NYY
TOR
 
1:10pm Today
MIA
WAS
 
1:35pm Today
BAL
BOS
 
1:35pm Today
PIT
MIL
 
1:35pm Today
ATL
NYM
 
1:40pm Today
TAM
CWS
 
2:10pm Today
MIN
CLE
 
2:10pm Today
KAN
DET
 
2:10pm Today
HOU
SEA
 
2:20pm Today
CHC
LOS
 
3:35pm Today
ANA
TEX
 
4:05pm Today
OAK
PHI
 
4:10pm Today
COL
ARI
 
4:10pm Today
SDP
SFG
 
8:05pm Tonight
STL
CIN
 
Final
WISC 68
BGU 17
Final
MSU 73
EMICH 14
Final
VT 24
GT 27
Final
PITT 20
IOWA 24
Final
RICE 42
ODU 45
Final
UGA 66
TROY 0
Final
SYR 20
MD 34
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
Final
COL 21
HAW 12
Final
AKR 17
MARS 48
Final
WAKE 24
ARMY 21
Final
KU 24
CMICH 10
Final
ALA 42
UF 21
Final
FIU 3
LOU 34
Final
ECU 70
UNC 41
Final
NAVY 24
RUTG 31
Final
SMU 6
TEXAM 58
Final
MICH 10
UTAH 26
Final
BYU 41
UVA 33
Final
WYO 20
FATL 19
Final
MIZZ 27
IND 31
Final
PSU 48
UMASS 7
Final
MINN 24
SJST 7
Final
ILL 42
TXST 35
Final
WASH 45
GASTATE 14
Final
SMISS 21
APPST 20
4th
TOL 34
BST 16
 
Final
OHIO 36
IDAHO 24
 
Final
CIN 31
UMO 24
Final
MEM 36
MTST 17
 
Final
LSU 29
MSST 34
Final
ARK 52
NILL 14
Final
ARKST 21
UTST 14
Final
SALABAMA 6
GASO 28
Final
WVU 33
OKLA 45
Final
VANDY 34
SCAR 48
Final
NEB 41
MIAMI 31
Final
NMST 35
NMU 38
 
Final
HOU 47
UNLV 14
 
Final
FSU 23
CLEM 17
 
3rd
ARZ 13
CAL 31
 
3rd
ORST 14
SDST 7
 
Half
WASU 21
OREG 21
 
Half
BSU 21
LALAF 3
 
1:30pm Today
CAR
CLB
 
5:00pm Tonight
WAS
BUF
 
6:30pm Tonight
CLB
STL
 
8:00pm Tonight
EDM
CAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
CAL
EDM
 
1:00pm Today
CLE
BAL
1:00pm Today
STL
DAL
1:00pm Today
DET
GBP
1:00pm Today
NYG
HOU
1:00pm Today
JAC
IND
1:00pm Today
NOS
MIN
1:00pm Today
NEP
OAK
1:00pm Today
BUF
SDC
1:00pm Today
CIN
TEN
1:00pm Today
PHI
WAS
4:05pm Today
ARI
SFX
4:25pm Today
SEA
DEN
4:25pm Today
MIA
KAN
8:30pm Tonight
CAR
PIT
Final
TOWSN 31
NCCU 20
 
Final
NCSU 42
PRES 0