The BCS bowl season kicked off in style yesterday with the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl, won by Stanford and Florida State respectively. It continues tonight when the Big East co-Champion Louisville Cardinals face off against the number 4-ranked Florida Gators. Kickoff will be around 8:30 tonight at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. This one could realistically go either way, so it’s time to break it down position-by-position. Who has the better skill players? The better defense? The better coaching? Let’s breakdown:
- Passing Game: The QB matchup will be Lousiville’s Teddy Bridgewater against Florida’s Jeff Driskell. Bridgewater has mobility to escape defenders but he is certainly a pass-first QB. He threw for 3,452 yards in 2012, with 25 pass TDs to just seven picks. When his line protects him, he’s one of the best in the nation. When they don’t, he gets pressured and sacked far too often, like in the UConn game. The good thing for Louisville is that Bridgewater takes every challenge on and thrives, posting remarkable numbers when the Cardinals are trailing (13 TDs to just two picks, 67% completion percentage, three 4th quarter comebacks). Louisville needs Bridgewater to be on his A-game in this one. His main targets will include DeVante Parker, Jeremy Wright and Damian Copeland. As for Driskell, he is not the most important factor in Florida’s offense but is a good dual-threat QB. He only threw the ball 216 times this year but was effective, throwing for 11 TDs to just three picks. On the ground, he ran for 404 yards and four TDs, including a 70 yarder. Driskell has been alright, but Florida’s passing game is 118th in the nation; Louisville is 23rd. I have to give the edge to Teddy Bridgewater for his big play in big moments. When you need him, which the Cards will, he’ll be there. The Edge: Louisville
- Running Game: What the Gators lack in a passing game, they make up for with a solid running game. Senior Mike Gillislee anchors the rushing attack with 1104 rushing yards and 10 TDs on the ground. Driskel is their second option as alluded to in the QB section, and the explosive Trey Burton has been used in the wildcat package. Florida has the #34 rushing attack in the nation, not the best mark but better than Louisville’s 100th-ranked run game. Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry are respectable 700-yard rushers, but Louisville knows their strength is through the air with Bridgewater. The Edge: Florida
- O-Line: As alluded to before, Louisville’s line has had their struggles in the passing game. Bridgewater needs his time back there to be effective. Their run protection is better however, and has allowed Wright to do damage at times this season. Whether it’s the pass or run, Florida’s offensive line has always been solid. Look for Driskell to have good protection under center and for the run protection to do its job tonight. The Edge: Florida
- Defense: The Louisville defense is good, 36th in the nation with a shade under 24 points per game, which is alright for a team with that good of an offense. But the Gators defense is great. They are third in the nation and have a far superior defensive line. I have to give the Gators the edge in this one, there is no way Louisville’s defense is as good. The Edge: Florida
- Coaching: Charlie Strong faces off against Will Muschamp in the coaching matchup. Both are great coaches and that’s why they have gotten this far. But when you think about it, Muschamp replaced a guy who will be considered a legend when it’s all said and done in Urban Meyer, and has already led the Gators back to the BCS. Strong hasn’t had nearly the type of pressure Muschamp has had, and I give the edge to the Florida boss. The Edge: Florida
Well, most of the edges go to the Gators and the game will as well. This one is going to end up very ugly, very fast.
The Prediction: 38-13 Florida
I’ve got the Gators! Enjoy everyone.