In one of the more intriguing matchups of this Bowl Season, the Miami Hurricanes (9-3) take on the Louisville Cardinals (11-1) in the Russell Athletic Bowl from the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL on Saturday, December 28th at 6:45 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Miami as a modest underdog for this contest with the current line at +3 with positive odds of +101.
Louisville was in the national rankings all season and finished 18th on the BCS Standings at 11-1, but the Cardinals faced an easy schedule ranked 105th in the country in SOS according to the Sagarin Ratings, and they faced just two teams all year ranked 62nd or higher on Sagarin. One of those was their loss to a Central Florida team ranked 38th on Sagarin and 15th in the BCS, and the other was vs. 62nd ranked Cincinnati, who took the Cardinals to overtime.
That takes on added relevance here because Miami is ranked 39th on Sagarin, and even though the ACC is probably just one notch above the AAC on the at the bottom of the list of major conferences, the underdog Hurricanes grade out much better schedule-wise here with an SOS ranked 58th.
Miami was once undefeated at 7-0 and ranked fifth in the AP Poll, but the Canes suffered their first loss at top ranked Florida State in emphatic fashion 41-14 and also lost star running back Duke Johnson for the season in the process. That game may have had a lingering affect as they went on to lose three straight games before regrouping with a couple of nice wins to close the season, beating Virginia by 19 points at home and Pittsburgh by 10 in the road.
The Hurricanes had a lot of big plays in the passing game this year from quarterback Stephen Morris, as they finished second in the country in passing plays of at least 30 yards behind only the Baylor Bears, but they are most dangerous when they first establish a running game. Miami struggled at first in that regard when Johnson first went down, but they totaled at least 180 rushing yards vs. both Duke and Pittsburgh.
Yes, Louisville statistically is second in the country in rushing defense, but you must take its competition into consideration so do not put effectively establishing the run past the Canes here, which would make Morris doubly tough via play-action.
Although the Cardinals only lost one all year, their level of play also seemed to diminish after the loss to UCF squashed their national title hopes as their last three wins were all by seven points. Besides the overtime win at Cincinnati, the other two escapes came vs. lesser competition in Memphis and Houston, which is a bad omen here with Miami considerably better than all of those teams.
Also, as a side note, do you think the Miami defense wants to get after Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater here after he originally committed to the Hurricanes but then de-committed?
We think that the difference of the schedules of these clubs will come into play, so look for an upset by Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
College Football Pick: Miami-FL +3 (+101)