No. 18 Louisville gets ACC preview against Miami

Louisville and Miami will be playing for more than a trophy in

Saturday’s Russell Athletic Bowl. The matchup will also provide

both teams with a glimpse of what’s ahead.

Next season will bring the latest round of conference

realignment, and with it the 18th-ranked Cardinals’ move the

Hurricanes’ Atlantic Coast Conference. While both schools will

undergo the usual personnel changes this offseason, this is an

opportunity not lost on either side.

“That’s where we’re trying to get to,” Cardinals coach Charlie

Strong said. “We know we still have a long ways to go, but this is

going to be a measuring stick for us as we go into the ACC next

season. … We’ll just see how far we have to go.”

For the Hurricanes (9-3), just being back in a bowl has been

reason to celebrate this week. Miami is appearing in its first bowl

since 2010 after self-imposing a two-year postseason ban during an

NCAA investigation.

Coach Al Golden, coaching his first bowl game at Miami, said

it’s been a week well spent as it tries to post the program’s first

bowl victory since 2006.

“Obviously we’ve been encumbered a little bit more than we would

have wanted to for the last two years,” Golden said. “But we feel

like we are moving the program forward, and we do have an

opportunity with a win (Saturday) night to be the first team in

Miami in a decade to win 10 games. Given the circumstances and the

adversity we’ve dealt with that would be a great task and

tremendous honor for our senior class.”

The Cardinals (11-1) missed out on their opportunity for a

second straight BCS bowl berth after blowing a 21-point lead in a

loss to eventual American Athletic Conference champion UCF.

Strong said the ability of his team to recover from that

disappointment showed a lot about the culture they’ve tried to

build.

A win Saturday would give the Cardinals the school’s second

12-win season.

“We knew there was going to be some highs and lows this season,

but our players were able to bounce back. I think about the one

loss that we had, we didn’t let that game go beat us twice,” Strong

said. “We could have very easily let that game beat us twice, and

we didn’t. So they have a lot to be proud of.”

Cardinals junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been Strong’s

starter for 26 of the 36 victories during his tenure. Despite

seeing his numbers tail off slightly down the stretch, Bridgewater

enters the Russell Bowl still high on NFL draft boards should he

decide to come out.

Bridgewater, a Miami native, originally committed to the

Hurricanes before re-opening his recruitment after Randy Shannon’s

firing. While a victory against his hometown school could be a nice

way to end his college career, whether Saturday’s game will be his

last in a Cardinals’ uniform remains unclear.

“I feel that I’m ready, but I also feel that I’m not. It can go

either way,” he said. “You always have areas that you can improve.

Like I said, after this game I will just evaluate everything.”

Here are five things to watch in Saturday’s game:

TEDDY BALL GAME: As Bridgewater has gone, so have the Cardinals.

With 28 touchdown passes this season, he enters the game just three

shy of breaking Brian Brohm’s school record of 30.

CONTAINING TEDDY: Miami has at times been vulnerable defending

the pass, surrendering 233.4 yards per game through the air, which

ranks 71st in the country. It puts a lot on the shoulders of the

secondary and CB Tracy Howard, who leads the team with four

interceptions.

FLORIDA REUNION: Strong has always recruited Florida hard, and

brings a roster to Orlando that has 26 players from the Miami

area.

RECORD BOOK WATCH: Not to be outdone, Miami QB Stephen Morris

needs just 132 yards to become only the second QB in Miami history

with multiple 3,000-yard seasons.

CARDINALS DEFENSE: Louisville features one of the nation’s top

defenses. It ranks second in total defense (257.9 yards per game),

second in rushing defense (86.3 ypg) and third in scoring defense,

allowing just 12.4 points a game.

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