The third of four bowl games to be televised on ESPN on Saturday, December 28 could easily be the best of the bunch as an 11-1 Louisville team faces a 9-3 Miami squad in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando. The game is slated for a 6:45 p.m. EST kickoff at the Citrus Bowl.
Miami will make its fourth trip to the Russell Athletic Bowl and its first bowl trip since the 2010 Sun after self-imposing bowl bans each of the past two years.
QB Stephen Morris enters the game ranked third in school history with 7,736 career passing yards. WR Allen Hurns sits just 19 yards shy of the Miami single-season receiving yards record with 1,138. UM’s defense is tied for 11th in the FBS with 27 forced turnovers, including 18 interceptions.
This will be Al Golden’s first bowl appearance as Miami’s head coach. He enters the game with a record of 22-14 at the helm in Coral Gables. Golden played in the inaugural Russell Athletic Bowl in 1990, then known as the Blockbuster Bowl, as a linebacker with Penn State.
Louisville heads to Orlando for the first time after posting its second-straight 10-win season, capped by a 31-24 overtime win at Cincinnati. It becomes the third team in bowl history to enter the game with double-digit wins (Boston College (10) 2007 Champs Sports Bowl; Alabama (10) 1991 Blockbuster Bowl) and the first to enter with 11 victories.
The Cardinals return junior QB Teddy Bridgewater, who already ranks third in Louisville history in passing yards and fourth in career touchdowns. He ranks 11th nationally in passing yards per game after a season in which he completed 70.2% of his passes for 3,523 yards with 28 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. He ranks 5th in pass efficiency and 2nd in completion percentage.
The Louisville defense has stymied the opposition all year long. The unit ranks second in total defense in the FBS, allowing only 242.5 yards per game and third in scoring defense, surrendering just 11.4 points per game. The Cardinals also rank in the top five nationally in rushing defense, passing defense, turnover margin and third down conversion percentage.
Louisville head coach Charlie Strong is 36-15 with the Cardinals, leading them to a share of the Big East title in 2011 and 2012 and four bowl appearances in each of his four seasons. Louisville's only loss this year was a home upset at the hands of Fiesta Bowl-bound UCF.
ACC teams have won 9 of the last 10 Russell Athletic Bowls which was previously known as the Champs Sports Bowl from 2004-2011 and the Tangerine Bowl from 2001-2003.
Louisville has an overall bowl record of 8-8-1 while Miami is 18-16.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com project Louisville to win by 5.29 points.