Russell Athletic Bowl preview: Louisville vs. Miami (Fla.)
Louisville (11-1, 7-1 AAC) vs. Miami-Fla. (9-3, 5-3 ACC)
December 28, 6:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Louisville Players to Watch:
Teddy Bridgewater, QB—It goes without saying that Bridgewater is the undisputed captain of the team. A natural leader and unique talent, the postseason is where he made a name for himself as he took apart Florida’s stout defense in last year’s Sugar Bowl.
Marcus Smith, DE—He’s not the only quality defensive lineman on the team (Louisville has many), but Smith’s 12.5 sacks (16.5 TFL) and three forced fumbles have to be noticed.
Miami Players to Watch:
Stephen Morris, QB—Morris went through a pretty rough stretch midway through the season when battling injury, but seems to be back to 100 percent and is beginning to play up to expectations. He’s thrown nine touchdowns to just two interceptions over the Canes’ last four games.
Stacey Coley, WR—Coley isn’t the only dangerous receiver in Miami’s arsenal, but he’s red hot as of late. The home run threat is averaging 22.3 yards per catch since Week 11.
Louisville Key to Victory:
Slow down Miami’s receivers. The Hurricanes haven’t been the same offense with all-star running back Duke Johnson on the sideline with a broken ankle, becoming one-dimensional in many aspects of the game. That hasn’t necessarily been a problem for this speedy wide receiver corps, which has four players averaging over 18 yards per catch. Louisville has a group of extremely talented veteran safeties in Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor that will have the difficult task of preventing what Miami does best—go deep.
Miami Key to Victory:
Win the battle up front. Miami’s mammoth-like offensive line led the ACC with 13 sacks allowed all season (No. 14 overall), while Louisville was one of the best in the nation at getting to the quarterback with 39 sacks (No. 4 in the NCAA). A monstrous defensive line with names like Marcus Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin and Roy Philon is one of the best Miami has seen yet, but the tackles have seen high-caliber units such as Florida State's and Virginia Tech's already and should be prepared.
Line: Louisville (-3.5)
Prediction: The city of Miami is still a few hours away, but Hurricane fans have a lot less traveling to do than those cooped up in Kentucky, so I expect this to feel like a home game for the U. Louisville wasn’t very impressive toward season’s end, beating Houston, Memphis and Cincinnati by a touchdown each. The Cardinals certainly have a lot of talent, but don’t matchup well with Miami’s top-end speed and its battle-tested roster.
Miami 27, Louisville 21
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