Miami Hurricanes (9-3) vs. Louisville Cardinals (11-1)
Saturday, Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. EST, ESPN
Line: Louisville by 3.5
How Miami got here: Al Golden’s team went through streaks — both good and bad — this fall. The Hurricanes opened the season with seven consecutive victories, including a surprise 21-16 win over Florida. A lambasting at the hands of rival Florida State started a three-game skid that also included losses to Virginia Tech and Duke.
How Louisville got here: A 38-35 loss to UCF is why Louisville is playing in Orlando instead of in a BCS game, and maybe even the championship game. The Cardinals also needed overtime in the season finale to beat Cincinnati 31-24.
For Miami to win: The Hurricanes must protect the football. When QB Stephen Morris got careless throwing the ball this fall, Miami usually lost. Morris can be dangerous and he could challenge the nation’s third-ranked defense. Let’s not forget that Miami hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2010 after the program was on a self-imposed two-year ban, so the Hurricanes should be ready to get after it.
For Louisville to win: Louisville peaked at the beginning of the season, so the Cardinals need to find some of that magic that helped them crush opponents in September. It’s also the same type of swagger that helped Louisville upset Florida in last year’s Sugar Bowl.
Key Player (Miami): Dallas Crawford, RB. It’s not easy to take over for the speedy Duke Johnson, but Crawford has done well. He rushed for 137 yards against North Carolina and 115 against Duke. If Crawford can give Miami a solid performance against Louisville it will take a lot of pressure off of Morris.
Key Player (Louisville): Teddy Bridgewater, QB. Coming out of Miami’s Northwestern High School, Bridgewater was initially headed to the U before Charlie Strong convinced him to head up to Louisville. He enters the bowl game with more than 3,500 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. There’s a good chance this is Bridgewater’s final college game.
Key Stat: 26. That’s the number of South Florida players on the Louisville roster. Charlie Strong has done an amazing job of recruiting this part of Florida and Al Golden and his staff are doing everything they can to keep the best players in Coral Gables.