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SHELBYVILLE, KY –
There are many words that can describe the feelings of Louisville Cardinals football fans today after learning last night that their beloved team will take on the #3 Florida Gators (11-1) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on January 2, 2013 at 8:30pm ET. Some are elated to take on the big challenge ahead while others are upset due to having to cancel their reservations in Miami. It was pretty much written in stone that the Cards would be tailgating close to the infamous South Beach, until the Northern Illinois Huskies snuck into the BCS top 16 after beating Kent State in the MAC Championship game. It’s a shame that teams like Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and South Carolina miss out on BCS games after the kinds of years they had but we won’t get into that debate.
A quick look at the Gators shows many good reasons that Louisville opened up as 15 point underdogs to Head Coach Charlie Strong’s old team. When you talk about the Florida Gators you have to speak of the speed on the defense and guys making plays everywhere on the field. There are top notch four and five star recruits at every position in the two deep depth chart. The Gators defense gave up a measly 12.9 points per game this season (3rd in FBS), 97 yards rushing (6th in FBS) and 186.4 yards (15th in FBS) passing per game. They are 5th in the FBS giving up only 283.42 total yards per game but 1st in the FBS in passing efficiency defense. There’s no getting around it, the Cardinal offense will have to perform flawlessly to have a chance in this one.
If Louisville fans were thinking that the Gators might be overlooking the Cards or not be “up” for this game, they need to rethink it. "We're honored to play in New Orleans,'' Gators coach Will Muschamp said Sunday night. “New Orleans is a great place with a lot of Gators." "Our guys were really jacked up after we beat Florida State,'' "We knew we would be in a BCS game. We have great motivation for this game regardless of the circumstances."Muschamp also has a lot of respect for his counterpart, Charlie Strong. "He does it the right way,'' Muschamp said. "Just got a lot of respect for him, he’s one of the good guys in this profession." Meanwhile, Strong is no stranger to the Sugar Bowl. He was Florida’s defensive coordinator in 2009 when the Gators beat Cincinnati by a score of 51-24. Strong still respects Florida as a program and feels the excitement of the Sugar Bowl, past and present. "It seems like it was yesterday we were in the Sugar Bowl playing Cincinnati,'' Strong said. "It's a program of excellence. I really enjoyed my time there. I watch this program every week.'' Strong talked about what the Sugar Bowl meant for his Cardinals. “It’s great for this program and it’ll be a great stage for our kids.” “Now we have a chance to play in our second BCS bowl in program history. I’m so happy for this program, this university and this city.”
Strong has quickly rebuilt Louisville, but he knows the talent Florida has will be difficult to match. It helps that Louisville has 34 Floridians on its roster, including Miami native and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. "This is a team that was one game away from playing for a national title,'' Strong said of the Gators. "We're nowhere near that right now. We're taking small steps here. We have laid a foundation." Sugar Bowl CEO, Paul Hoolahan had this to say about the matchup: "The Sugar Bowl Committee has worked hard over the years to present outstanding matchups that produce thrilling games.” In Will Muschamp and Charlie Strong, we have two of the country’s top young coaches and we know both will have their teams ready to play on January 2nd. We have little doubt that this game will produce another memorable chapter in the great history of the Sugar Bowl.” This will be the third meeting all time between the Cards and Gators. Florida won both previous games, 31-17 in 1992 and 13-0 in 1980. Card fans always talk about wanting respect and better opponents and better opportunities. Well, you got what you wished for now let’s see how you handle it. If you have never been to a bowl game and always wanted to, this is the one you have been waiting for.
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