The nationally renowned and #3 ranked Florida Gators will meet the Louisville Cardinals (#21) in this year’s Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans on January 2, 2013. The Gators had a schedule filled with ranked opponents and they managed to finish the season at 11-1. Had they not lost to Georgia in Week 8 they would have played Alabama for the SEC championship and quite possibly played in the BCS National Championship. It was not to be however and thus they are here facing the Cardinals for their shot at winning this bowl game.
The Cardinals had a 9-0 run in the regular season until they lost a game to Syracuse and one to Connecticut before beating Rutgers to earn this bowl spot. The team averaged 31 points a game this season while allowing an average of 23.8 points a game. The highlight of their offense is their pass game, 24th in the nation, led by QB Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater had an impressive season with a passing average of 69%, 3452 passing yards and 25 TDs; and with only 7 INTs their 10-2 finishing record makes a lot more sense. As a point of interest, the Cardinals’ head coach Charlie Strong was formerly a coach with the Gators, even acting as their defensive coordinator between 2003-2009.
The Gators’ defense will likely be the greatest challenge of Bridgewater’s career. Starring first team All-American Safety Matt Elam, the Gators have allowed just 5 passing TDs this season and have produced 19 INTs. Overall the Gators’ defense finished the season ranked 3rd in the nation for average points allowed per game at 12.9 points. The most points they allowed were 26 points to Florida State (Florida St was ranked 12th in the nation for points scored, averaging 39.9 points). Another stat that is indicative of how dominate the Gators’ defense can be is their third down rating. They have allowed opponents to convert just 28% of third down attempts. They are playing so well on first and second down that defending third-and-long is producing a fantastic outcome and a third of their interceptions have occurred on 3rd down.
Florida’s loss was 17-9 to Georgia who is ranked 17th in the nation for points allowed, averaging 18.8 points allowed per game. Notably Florida had a 14-6 win over LSU, a 44-11 win over South Carolina and a 20-17 win over QB Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M squad. Those are all terrific performances against very strong teams
The Gators are favored to win this game by a 14 point spread and an over/under that is at 45.5 points. That gives a proposed score of 30-16 for the Gators
The Gators averaged 26.8 points a game this season and allowed an average of 12.9 points. The Cardinals will be out-classed when they face the Gators. They did not play a single ranked team this season. Louisville played Kentucky and won 32-14, the Gators beat Kentucky 38-0. Even if Coach Strong does possess some sort of insight into the Florida Gators, it seems surprising to think that the Cardinals can score more than 14 points against the Gators. On the other side of the ball it would be surprising if the Cardinals’ defense, allowing an average of 23.8 points to mediocre teams, can hold back the Gators’ offense. The Gators should be able to crush the 30 point mark on offense. Therefore this game should be easy pickings. The Gators should cover the spread and take the game past 45.5 points.
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