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No one has had any faith in Big East football in a while and the Sugar Bowl will be no different. The conference is full of lackluster schools that provide little excitement to viewers. With four schools finishing at 5-2 in the conference, no one could separate themselves from the pack. Louisville had the tiebreaker above the three other schools, mainly because one of their losses was to a 2-5 team (Connecticut) and not a fellow 5-2 school. Florida kind of slowed down at the end of the year, but they still managed an 11-1 overall record playing in the SEC.
The Gators have plenty of big wins on their schedule: LSU, South Carolina, Florida State and at Texas A&M. That's four teams ranked in the Top 12 in the country. Their only loss came against Georgia at a neutral site, 17-9. Remember, the Bulldogs were one score away from playing in the National Championship. Toward the end of the season, Florida didn't really excel, having trouble beating Louisiana-Lafayette and not really overpowering Jacksonville State. They did beat the Seminoles in the last game of the year 37-26, so that may be a confidence booster for the offense (they scored 24 straight points in the fourth quarter).
Louisville has nowhere near those types of wins on their schedule. In fact, none of their wins are against ranked teams. Outside of the conference, they had to beat Kentucky and North Carolina. To make less of a case for them, they beat a zero-win Southern Miss team by four points and a three-win Florida International by only a touchdown. They had a chance to be undefeated late in the season, but got destroyed in Syracuse and lost to 5-7 Connecticut at home in three overtimes. The line is at 13 points for a reason for the Gators, but like previously mentioned, they aren't blowing teams out as easy as you'd think.
Florida plays a safe brand of football led by sophomore QB Jeff Driskel. He has only attempted 216 passes on the year for 1,471 yards, 11 TDs and only three INTs. Whether it's Driskel or RB Mike Gillislee, the Gators will be running a lot in this game. Driskel doesn't carve up defenses, but he does have 404 yards and four TDs on the ground. Gillislee is the main threat, rushing for 1,104 yards and 10 TDs on 235 carries. The Cardinals will need to focus on stopping Gillislee as he's coming off one of his best games of the season at Florida State, 140 yards and two TDs.
Louisville has had plenty of problems on the defensive end this year and that's why most of their games have been close. They were destroyed by Syracuse for 45 points and Pittsburgh for 35, neither of those teams have a great offense. Florida doesn't have a great offense either, but one may not be needed with the defense they have. The Gators allow fewer than 13 points per game stopping pretty much everyone that comes in their path, including Heisman winner Jonny Manziel.
The Cardinals will need Teddy Bridgewater to be on top of his game. His numbers look great with 3,452 yards, 25 TDs and only seven INTs. But again, he hasn't played a defense like Florida's yet. He has thrown an interception in three straight games as well which is worrisome as he'll face some of the best defensive backs in the nation. DeVante Parker has been his most trusted receiver with 712 yards and nine TDs. Still, five receivers on Louisville have at least 30 receptions. Jeremy Wright will get most of the work out of the backfield as fellow RB Senorise Perry tore his ACL on Nov. 10. Wright has 740 yards and nine TDs for the season, but has had plenty of problems as of late. In his last three games, he has just 89 yards on 48 carries with zero touchdowns. That's 1.9 yards per carry. If Bridgewater can't get anything going, that 13-point line may be hard to reach.
We love to find live dogs come bowl time. Especially live double digit dogs. But this simply isn't one of those spots. It's kind of hard to believe Louisville is 10-2. Playing the Cardinals in this game would mean you are guessing they can play on the same level as the Gators. Because there's no proof. Could Louisville pull a shocker? Sure, why not. Hey, Maybe Florida will take them lightly and Louisville will be sky high for this game.
But if we're to go by the seasons these two have had, and who they have played to accomplish their statistics, we have to side with the Gators. Louisville has played a schedule that was about 10 points weaker than Florida's and against that schedule, their numbers are nothing to write home about. In fact, for example, their yards per point number defensively is just 14.4 compared to Florida's spectacular 22. Again, it's the opponents they played that you have to keep in mind. Louisville didn't play a team close in strength to several of the teams Florida played, such as Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State. Oh, and Florifa beat them all but Georgia.
This isn't a strong play. We hate laying big numbers in bowl games. Our model likes Florida as well, but not by much more than the current number. We run the games with season to date data, last 5 games and last 7 games and the results here were 30-11, 33-14 and 34-13. Florida -14
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