Russell Athletic Bowl Primer: Miami vs. Louisville
By Jackson Wang
Miami Hurricanes (9-3) vs. Louisville Cardinals (11-1)
This isn’t the game either team expected to be in. Louisville may have been playing for a national championship if it wasn’t for the slip up in mid-October to UCF. Miami was on pace to win the ACC Costal Division until losses to Florida State and Duke.
Now, both teams will try to do whatever it takes in order to make the 2013 season somewhat successful. Louisville junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could be heading to the NFL, and Miami senior quarterback Stephen Morris will be playing his last collegiate matchup at this bowl game. Morris has never won a bowl game in his career at Miami and I’m sure he would love nothing more than to win one in his final game.
Motivation: Getting some respect. Many thought at the beginning of this season the Cardinals would run the table and play for the BCS title. But after the loss to UCF back in October, they just seemed like another mediocre team. So for Louisville, winning this matchup against Miami would prove the Cardinals to still be one of the best and show that the AAC deserves the label of a BCS conference. (The Cardinals, though, are headed for the ACC next year.)
If You’ve Never Seen Them: Led by Bridgewater, Louisville had the best offense in the AAC, leading the conference in total yards (5,437) and points (421). Not only does Bridgewater have a better completion rate than Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, but Bridgewater also has fewer turnovers as well. And along with a poised running attack from junior Dominique Brown and senior Senorise Perry, Louisville has a well-balanced offensive attack.
Weakness: When Louisville faced off against UCF and Cincinnati, two of their toughest matchups of the season, its secondary got picked apart. Brendon Key threw for more than 300 yards in the Cincinnati game, while Blake Bortles was able to drive down the field with less than three minutes to go to get the winning score as UCF ruined Louisville’s perfect season. If the Cardinals don’t get pressure on Morris, it will be a long day for the Louisville secondary.
Motivation: How about the fact that Miami hasn’t won a bowl game since 2008? For a program that was known for winning national titles in the 1980s and 1990s, this win is a necessity in order for the Hurricanes to show the recruits and fans that they still have the “U Swag.” And with no bowl sanctions, this should be a start of something special.
If You’ve Never Seen Them: Miami is finally back on track after losing to Florida State back in November in a highly anticipated game between unbeatens, which resulted in a 41-14 loss. Two losses followed before the Hurricanes were able to get wins over Virginia and Pittsburgh to end the season. Morris played terrific football toward the end of the season. After the loss to Florida State, Morris has averaged 303.3 passing yards per game and at least two touchdowns.
Weakness: As well as Morris has played all season, it’s the Hurricanes’ offense that’s killing them. Miami’s offense has just a 38-percent conversation rate on third downs. Also, opponents have the ball an average of eight minutes longer per game. But not all blame can fall on the offense. The Miami defense also has allowed 26 points and 418 yards of offense per game. So the Hurricanes offense needs to get first downs to keep Louisville’s offense on the sideline as long as possible so the Miami’s defense can rest up for their turn.