Continuing his 2012 bowl previews, Joe Healy previews the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
The Sugar Bowl is not quite the apparent mismatch that the Orange Bowl is, but if “experts” and Vegas oddsmakers are to be believed, we shouldn’t expect a close game.
The thought is that Louisville, the champion of the Big East, won’t be able to keep up with Florida, a defensive juggernaut from the powerful SEC.
One thing is for certain. If Louisville is going to be competitive in this game, they are going to have to get a fantastic performance out of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater, the best recruit to make it to campus in Charlie Strong’s tenure, really made the Louisville offense go. He finished the regular season with 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns. Although he didn’t put up huge rushing numbers, he’s also quite adept at moving around and keeping a play alive.
Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry give the Cardinals a steady running back duo to keep some balance in the offense. Together they rushed for over 1,400 yards. In the receiving corps, Bridgewater has several players he can go to. Five different receivers caught at least 30 passes in the regular season.
The defense for Louisville is pretty solid, but not great. They rank 36th in the nation in scoring defense.
For Florida, the key to the game will just to do exactly what they have done all season and that’s play suffocating defense. As a unit, the Gators finished third in the nation in scoring defense.
If head coach Will Muschamp says that their defense is a team effort, he truly means it. While there is certainly some big-time talent on the field, everyone chips in. Fourteen total players recorded at least one sack and over 20 players recorded tackles for loss.
In the secondary, Matt Elam leads the way. The Palm Beach Gardens, Florida native has four interceptions on the season.
When you have a defense as good as Florida does, the offense’s job is just to not lose the game. For the most part, the offense did that.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel has not come anywhere close to being the quarterback that most expected him to be when he came to Gainesville as one of the top-rated high school quarterbacks in the nation, but he was much steadier this season than he was last season. He completed just under 65% of his passes and he only threw three interceptions all season.
The most electrifying player on the Florida offense is running back Mike Gillislee. The senior from DeLand, Florida rushed for 1,104 yards and ten touchdowns in the regular season. When Florida is looking for a big play, they look to get Gillislee the ball in space.
If the game comes down to a field goal battle, you have to like Florida’s chances to come out victorious. Veteran kicker Caleb Sturgis made 23 of his 27 field goal attempts this season and was a perfect 3/3 from 50 yards or longer.
I can’t see Florida blowing the Cardinals off the field because their offense isn’t high-powered enough to put up huge points on a consistent basis. I think it will be a relatively low-scoring, ugly game that Florida wins handily.