RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL PREVIEW - Miami vs. Louisville: It's a bowl game y'all

You can't spell QB comparison without Russell - J. Meric

This week 9-3 Miami dives back back into post season play as they take on the 11-1 Louisville Cardinals in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando. A matchup, that almost seemed destined, features as many story lines as it does players from South Florida. Let's take a look at how the two teams match up and what to expect during the game.

History: It's a pretty lop-sided record between Miami and Louisville, with UM holding an 8-1-1 advantage. As a Cane fan it certainly doesn't feel that way. Their last meeting was 9-16-2006; I remember well because I was at the hospital exhausted. I was now the father of an awesome baby girl and - oh hey look - the Canes game is on. Life was good; I was a dad, and the Hurricanes were disrespecting the Louisville Mid Field logo. Note to future opponents of Louisville, they don't take kindly to teams jumping around on their mid-field logo. The final of the game was Cards 31, UM 7, but it felt like and probably should have been 63-0. Louisville hates babies and joyous events.

One of the main back stories to this game (and source of debate that gets brought up ad nauseam) is the fact that Teddy Bridgewater  could be the starting QB of Miami. If you don't already know (and don't follow a certain Miami based rapper on social media) Bridgewater - a Miami Northwestern alum - was a UM commit up till the point former coach Randy Shannon was let go. Golden tried his best to keep him on board, but was unable to keep Teddy from heading outta state. Bridgewater, being a talented QB, helped the Cards land quite a few more South Florida recruits (well, him and former UM and current U of L assistant coach Clint Hurt). Right now you're thinking "why does that name sound familiar?" Go read the NCAA case against Miami. I'll leave it at that 'cause it's the holidays. A TV exec couldn't ask for more drama; but hey, Stephen Morris has been compared to Bridgewater for the past few years anyway, might as well go out in a head to head match up.

How they compare:

Both teams can move the ball, averaging over 450 yards a game; and can put up points, averaging 35 points a game. Both teams pass first, but have running games that need to accounted for. Both teams are led by NFL caliber quarterbacks that have multiple WRs that can make plays. The comparisons stop when you get to the defensive side of the ball. Louisville comes in with both their passing and rushing defense ranked in the top 10 nationally, and an overall defensive ranking of second. This won't be anything new to MIami, as they have already faced the third and fourth ranked overall defenses this season in FSU and Virginia Tech. Miami's defense pretty much lives and dies with it's ability to create turnovers. In the games they have been able to capitalize on multiple takeaways, things have generally turned out okay. In the games they haven't, not so much.

Players to watch: Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater isn't talked about as the possible number one quarterback in the draft by accident. He's thrown for 3,523 yards, 28TDs and only 4INTs. He has two WRs that help him out in DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland. Copeland leads the team in receptions with 52, and has 690 yards receiving, along with 5TDs. Parker has 46 receptions, but leads the team with 743 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. On defense, Louisville has a monster in defensive end Marcus Smith. Smith has disrupted teams all year, with 12.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. He's an "All" pretty much everything, much like Aaron Donald - Pittsburgh's DT who Miami faced in their season finale. While Smith plays on the outside, UM will have to "Keep four eyes and four hands" on him, much like how they game planned against Donald.

Players to watch : Miami

Stephen Morris has seemed to improve as he has gotten healthier. He's accounted for 2,868 yards passing, with 21 touchdowns, but it's the 12 INTs that have been the issue this year. He will be throwing the ball to WRs Allen Hurns and Stacy Coley. Hurns went over a thousand yards receiving this season with 1,138. He's only the fourth UM receiver to break the thousand yards, and is 19 yards shy of breaking Leonard Hankerson's single season record for receiving yards. He's been Miami's MVP all year and needs another big game Saturday. While Hurns has been a great story, true freshman Stacy Coley has lived up to the buzz he created on national signing day with his "Swag" hat. He's second on the team in receiving yards with 559, but is also a multi-threat, amassing 1,257 all-purpose yards this season; and is the only player in the FBS to have a touchdown rushing, receiving, and on punt and kick returning. On defense, safety Deon Bush has been slowed due to a preseason surgery. Hopefully the extra bowl practice time helped him, because the Miami secondary will be busy keeping up with the Cards passing game. Linebacker Denzel Perryman has anchored the UM defense all year and could be playing his last game as a Cane. Perryman leads the team in total tackles with 104 and also has one and a half sacks.

Should you worry:

With the way Louisville passes the ball yes, worry. Like I said, hopefully the extra time to prepare will allow UM to come up with a scheme that can create pressure for Bridgewater. If they allow him to sit back and pick apart the defense, I don't know if Miami can keep pace with the Cards' offense. You may think that Louisville plays in a weaker conference, and that pads the stats and rankings they have this year, and you could be partly right. You can also say Miami padded its statistics against the weaker teams on its schedule. We all watched Louisville destroy Florida in last year's bowl. They only have one loss on the schedule, and have a QB that will go quickly in the NFL draft. Yup, plenty to worry about. Miami has a huge opportunity to reach 10 wins this season; hopefully they go into recruiting season on a high note.

Prediction: Miami 27 Louisville 24


BROADCAST INFORMATION
ESPN •
Bob Wischusen, Play-by-Play • Rod Gilmore, Analyst • Quint Kessenich, Sideline Reporter
ESPN RADIO • Dave Lamont, Play-by-Play • Anthony Becht, Analyst • Brooke Weisbrod, Sideline Reporter
WQAM 560 AM • Joe Zagacki, Play-by-Play •Don Bailey Jr., Analyst Josh Darrow, Sideline Reporter
RADIO CARACOL 1260 AM • Roly Martin, Play-by-Play • Pepe Campos, Analyst Joe Martinez, Analyst SATELLITE RADIO • SiriusXM 84

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