Saturday, December 28: Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, FL at 6:45 pm EST
#18 Louisville Cardinals (11-1) vs. Miami Hurricanes (9-3)
A pretty high-profile matchup in the Russell Athletic Bowl, between two teams who had BCS bowl dreams in the mid-season.
Vegas line/spread: Louisville by 3 1/2 (over/under 58)
The Cardinals were a field goal favorite early and that bumped up to 3 1/2 as of the day before the game. The over/under rose from 55 to 58.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. Spread
Louisville ranks a bit higher in the Strength power rating, #26 to #40, and naturally their game performances rate better. The slim spread evens things out and makes it a tossup, however.
Strength power rating: Louisville 32, Miami FL 29 by Median rating: Miami FL 31-30
Louisville scoring offense: #49 vs. Miami FL scoring defense: #72
Louisville scoring defense: #18 vs. Miami FL scoring offense: #19
People think of Louisville as an offensive power due to Teddy Bridgewater, but really it's their defense that gets the job done. That defense will have their hands full with Miami's similarly-rated offense, but the Cardinal offense has the edge on the Miami D, to the tune of 3 points, matching the Vegas line. Despite playing in-state we don't give Miami any home field advantage; Orlando is far enough from Miami that we should give them a point or two at the very most.
Interestingly, the median rating shows Miami favored by a point, but as we'll see later Miami's early games should be discounted somewhat.
Yardage analysis: Louisville 41, Miami FL 27 per-play: Louisville 41, Miami FL 38
Yardage differential: Louisville #21 vs. Miami FL #56
Louisville total offense: #41 vs. Miami FL total defense: #104
Louisville total defense: #10 vs. Miami FL total offense: #20
Miami's defense is terrible in terms of giving up yardage, which is why the spread leaps to two touchdowns based on adjusted yardages. Using this projection the Cardinals would outgain the Canes approximately 500 to 300 total yards.
On a per-play basis, however, things look close again, with Louisville having only a very small edge in yards per carry and yards per attempt.
Adjustments to yardage estimate: Louisville 47, Miami FL 25
- Interceptions: Hardly any difference is seen here based on total pass defenses (breakups plus interceptions).
- Forced fumbles: Louisville might have a small advantage, about 1.5 points.
- Sacks: Miami should have about 1 more sack than Louisville, equal to almost 2 points.
- Red zone%: Louisville gains about 1 point here while Miami loses a point.
- 3rd-down%: This could be a big difference, as Louisville is in the top 15 in both offense and defense on 3rd down (adjusted for opponents). We see the Cardinals being successful on over half their third downs and Miami on just 1 of 3; this is a 7 point swing.
- Special Teams: Louisville has above-average special teams (worth 0.7 points); Miami's are even better, worth 1.8 points.
Summary: The adjustments above have only widened the gap rather than closing it toward the Vegas line or Strength power rating estimation.
When Louisville has the ball
|Louisville rushing offense: #72
||Miami FL rushing defense: #90
Louisville isn't a big rushing team but Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry combined for over 1,400 yards this season. With Miami's defense shaky, that could mean nearly 200 yards on the ground.
|Louisville passing offense: #29||Miami FL passing defense: #104 per att: #87|
|Louisville interceptions thrown ranking: #8||Miami FL interceptions picked ranking: #19|
|Louisville quarterback protection rank: #89||Miami FL pass rush rank: #59|
Teddy Bridgewater had all the Heisman hype in the world but he needed to make his team go undefeated, something he couldn't do. It's not like he disappointed: he threw for over 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 4 picks while completing 70% of his passes, and he's still the top QB in most mock drafts. DeVante Parker (743 yards) and Damian Copeland (690) were the top receivers. Miami had trouble against passing teams this year so look for Bridgewater to throw for over 300 yards.
Miami usually slows down opposing quarterbacks with interceptions (they have 18) but Bridgewater rarely gives the ball away. They'll have better luck with sacks as Bridgewater has been felled 22 times.
When Miami FL has the ball
|Miami FL rushing offense: #41
||Louisville rushing defense: #25
Duke Johnson led the Canes with 920 yards this year, and that's through 8 games, before his season-ending ankle injury. Dallas Crawford (523 yards) has filled in admirably, but he's no Duke. Louisville's rushing defense is #2 in raw figures but they played weak rushing offenses; still, it's in the top 25 and should hold Miami below 150 yards.
|Miami FL passing offense: #21||Louisville passing defense: #11 per att: #20|
|Miami FL interceptions thrown ranking: #83||Louisville interceptions picked ranking: #21|
|Miami FL quarterback protection rank: #13||Louisville pass rush rank: #22|
Stephen Morris' senior year wasn't quite as good as his junior season, but he nearly has 3,000 yards with a similar 21 touchdowns and 59% completion percentage. Allen Hurns (1,138 yards) and Stacy Coley (559) lead the receivers. Louisville has a strong pass defense, however, and should hold Miami to around 250 yards.
Morris has been sacked just 11 times, so despite Louisville's solid pass rush (Maurice Smith has 12.5 and Lorenzo Mauldin 9.5), the Canes should defend the QB well (note that Louisville adjusts from #3 in the nation in sacks to #22 due to their weak opposition). Morris has thrown 12 picks and Louisville might be able to take advantage of that but Charles Gaines (5 picks) might not play.
Louisville's season (11-1)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (4)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (1) to losing teams (0)
- Ohio U. W 49- 7
- Eastern Kentucky W 44- 7
- @ Kentucky W 27-13
- Florida Int'l W 72- 0
- @ Temple W 30- 7
- Rutgers W 24-10
- #15 Central Florida L 35-38
- @ South Florida W 34- 3
- @ Connecticut W 31-10
- Houston W 20-13
- Memphis W 24-17
- @ Cincinnati W 31-24 OT
One loss, and all was lost. The 38-35 home loss to Central Florida was enough to derail both Louisville's national championship and BCS bowl hopes; despite winning out the rest of the way, it was to no avail.
But even if they'd gone undefeated they probably wouldn't be in the BCS title game, as they played just five bowl-eligible teams. The first, Ohio, didn't put up much fight, losing 49-7. Several blowouts later the Cards were 6-0 and looked like a top ten team. That ended with the UCF loss and after it the team seemed a lot less motivated, like the air had gone out of their sails. They beat but didn't really overwhelm struggling USF (34-3) and UConn (31-10), and narrowly edged Houston 20-13, Memphis 24-17, and Cincy 31-24 in overtime.
Miami FL's season (9-3)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (4)
Wins vs. BCS Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (3) to losing teams (0)
- Florida Atlantic W 34- 6
- Florida W 21-16
- Savannah St W 77- 7
- @ South Florida W 49-21
- Georgia Tech W 45-30
- @ North Carolina W 27-23
- Wake Forest W 24-21
- @ #1 Florida St L 14-41
- Virginia Tech L 24-42
- @ #24 Duke L 30-48
- Virginia W 45-26
- @ Pittsburgh W 41-31
Miami's first win (34-6 over Florida Atlantic) looks pretty good now while their 2nd (21-16 over Florida) has lost some luster. The Canes rolled to a 7-0 record and were riding high in the BCS before falling to earth with three straight losses.
Not that the signs weren't there. Particularly, beating North Carolina just 27-23 (when UNC was starting out 1-5), then struggling with Wake Forest at home (winning just 24-21). You could say maybe they were looking ahead, but FSU beat them 41-14 so it wasn't worth it. Letdown plus losing Duke Johnson set the stage for the next two losses, Virginia Tech (42-24) and at Duke (48-30). The Hurricanes recovered with two wins to go 9-3 and surprisingly it's the defense that collapsed at the end of the season, not the offense. Still, we have to consider the difference in the team without the reliable Johnson at RB.
With Duke Johnson out, Miami has been a different team, losing a lot of their run/pass balance threat. They also lost a couple of defensive backs in late November and two more defenders are questionable. They should get receiver Phillip Dorsett back, however, but #3 receiver Herb Waters is probably out. Louisville has some questionable players too including interceptions leader Charles Gaines.
Psychology/Motivation - Some (unscientific) factors that may come into play during the game:
- Louisville's season: +1 win; Miami FL's season: +2 wins
- Louisville's momentum: -1 win; Miami FL's momentum: -3 wins
- Louisville won final game: YES; Miami FL won final game: YES
- Louisville glad to be there? sort of; Miami FL glad to be there: yes
- Louisville time zones from home: 0; Miami FL time zones from home: 0;
- Louisville coaching situation: stable; Miami FL coaching situation: stable
Louisville had a better season this year, but isn't going to a BCS bowl like last year. Miami had a better season, too, but it didn't feel like it after starting 7-0 and ending up 9-3. Still, Miami has to be a bit more primed for a bowl game given that they haven't gone in the last two years due to opting out among the NCAA investigation.
So far, no one has hired away either team's coach; it seems more of a possibility for Charlie Strong to leave than Al Golden.
When the Strength power rating and Vegas line agree, it's often wise to assume that's just about how the game is going to go. But the adjustments to the yardage estimate failed to collapse the spread down from 14; instead it went up to 22 points! Is Miami due to get blown out against the Cardinals?
Whether it was losing Duke Johnson or letdown by the defense, Miami wasn't the same team in the last four games as it was pre-FSU. The team was about 8 1/2 points worse in the last month and with Johnson gone it doesn't seem like it will get better.
The one thing Miami has going for it is enthusiasm over getting back to the bowl season after a two-year self-imposed absence. Meanwhile Louisville expected another BCS bowl at the very least and ends up in the Russell Athletic Bowl. How many points swing is that?
So we have scenarios ranging from a 3-point Louisville win to a 22-point Louisville win, with a stop in the middle at around 12 points. Does Louisville disappoint and Miami come out strong? Maybe, but we also have to think Teddy Bridgewater wants to put on a good show for the NFL scouts one last time. Miami might be hyped up to be playing, but can they make it happen without Johnson? We keep coming back to that and thinking the answer is no. The Cardinals might not like being at the Russell Athletic Bowl, but Miami is a high-profile opponent that should guard them from letdown.
Prediction: Louisville 35, Miami FL 24
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2013-2014 bowl game schedule.