Having covered Charlie Strong for most of the years he was at Florida, I think it’s pretty safe to assume he has crafted a great defensive game plan for the Sugar Bowl. If there are any doubts about that, just look back to the 2008 BCS Championship Game, when he came up with a great game plan that pretty much shut down an Oklahoma offense that had gone up and down the field against everybody in the regular season.
Strong is going to make it tough on the Gators. His Louisville team will be prepared, it will play hard, it will come out with a chip on its shoulder determined to prove it belongs in a BCS bowl game and can compete, and beat, a quality SEC team.
Strong loves defense. But it’s the Cardinals’ offense that is the strength of this team. Teddy Bridgewater is a great passer, great quarterback and gritty competitor who led the Cardinals to a season-defining victory over Rutgers playing with an injured wrist and a sprained ankle. The guy makes plays and leads his team, and he’s been on a real roll over the last half of the season, averaging more than 300 yards passing a game.
This is going to be yet another tough challenge for the Gators. Mainly because of the Strong factor and the Bridgewater factor and the fact Louisville fans might outnumber Gator fans 2-1 in the Superdome.
But there are several reasons why I like the Gators even more in this game. Being around the players this week in New Orleans, the Gators seem focused and determined to play one of their best games of the season. And, Florida clearly has a lot of momentum coming off the impressive win at Tallahassee a month ago. Jeff Driskel’s confidence is growing, the offense is starting to develop into what Brent Pease wants it to be and the defense may be the strongest the Gators have had in many years.
And here’s the biggest reason of all to go with the Gators in this one: Florida is better than Louisville. Better and faster and battle-tested after grinding its way through a tough SEC season.
Prediction: Florida 28, Louisville 10