As University of Louisville fans pack their bags for New Orleans, it is with full awareness that the football team is a heavy underdog against Florida in the BCS Sugar Bowl. But there is no sense of resignation or acceptance. Winning is the objective.
The odds makers have determined that Florida is a 14-point favorite. They’re just covering their behinds, expecting Florida to pound UofL into the ground. SEC vs. Big East, no contest as far as they are concerned.
The chip-on-the-shoulder approach has worked well for UofL in recent seasons. But this will be the first game this season in which UofL has not been favored, as Charlie Strong keeps reminding his troops.
With so many players from Florida on the team, there is no lack of motivation on UofL’s part. The Cards will be energized, but need to be focused. Adrenaline only goes so far.
Louisville’s weakness is in the rushing game, an area in which Florida excels at stopping. UofL is averaging only 127 yards per game. Florida has allowed less than 97 per outing.
The Gators, averaging 197 yards rushing per game, wants to do what Syracuse did to Louisville, run down the throat of the defensive line, testing the front four early and often. All the linebackers Strong recruited last season will be needed.
UofL running back Jeremy Wright has been inconsistent in recent games, gaining only 58 yards in his last outing against Rutgers. The real hope is that Corvin Lamb is ready to go after suffering a hamstring. Lamb has shown flashes of brilliance the few times he’s carried the ball. Sugar Bowl would be a good place to start if he’s going to play on Sundays.
The real question may be how seriously Florida takes Louisville. No one gives UofL a chance in the sports media or in the Florida fan base. Players feed off their fans and vice versa, they know what the media is saying whether coaches allow access or not.
Teddy Bridgewater will want to do well against Florida. Louisville is ranked 23rd in passing with 300 yards per game, thanks to his accuracy, dexterity and raw courage. If he has fully recovered from his injuries, Teddy could have the game of his life.
That’s probably what it’s going to take for Louisville to win, and it’s what they’re counting on as they head south on the buses, planes and cars by the thousands. Totally on board the train.