Familiarity Breeds Contempt.
You would be hard pressed to find another coach across the country that is more familiar with the Florida Gators than Louisville head coach, Charlie Strong. You will also be hard pressed to find another coach that respects them more than Strong.
Strong served on the staff at Florida four different times and experienced a career’s worth of success. Most recently, he ran their defense from 2003-09, winning a pair of BCS titles during that time.
"Florida is a program of excellence and I really enjoyed my time there," he said. "I watch that program every week.
So, if familiarity breeds contempt, someone forgot to tell Charlie Strong. Nothing but respect from him.
That’s about as far as the familiarity between these two teams goes.
In fact, throughout the history of these two programs, they have only played twice, in 1980 and 1992, both in Gainesville, and Florida won both contests.
Not surprisingly, Louisville is a clear underdog in the Sugar Bowl. Florida played one of the toughest schedules in the country and came up one game short of perfection. They lost a defensive battle against SEC runner-up Georgia, 17-9. Ironically, a loss by that same Georgia team in the SEC championship game allowed Florida to claim the second BCS spot for the SEC.
A look at the Gators strength reveals the keys to their success. In what should be a surprise to no one, the strength of the Florida team is their defense. Strong laid the foundation while he was there and Muschamp, who has experienced tremendous success as a defensive coordinator prior to taking over the reins at Florida, built off of that foundation to bolster the Gator defense into one of the best in the country.
The stingy Gator defense held opposing offenses to just 186.0 yards per game. One of the highlights of the season for this Florida defense was holding eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to a season-low 173 passing yards in September, leading them to a victory over Texas A&M.
"We have played very good defense throughout the year," Muschamp said. The Gator defense is led by first-team All-America safety Matt Elam. The Gators rank third in the country in points allowed at 12.9 per game. They've given up an astonishingly low five touchdowns through the air with 19 interceptions along the way. In the pass happy college landscape of today, that speaks to the dominance of the defense.
Florida will need another strong (no pun intended) performance by their defense to stifle the Louisville offense, the strength of the Cardinals team.
Led by Big East offensive player of the year, Florida native QB Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals will be looking to attack the heart of the Florida defense. The sophomore quarterback completed 69.0 percent of his passes for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns. He played a gritty game against Rutgers, playing with a broken wrist and a sore ankle; he came off the bench and went 20 of 28 for 263 yards and a pair of TDs to rally the Cardinals to a victory
"That was a gutsy performance," Gators coach Will Muschamp said. "His efficiency as far as completion percentage is off the charts. So he's a guy that gets the ball in the right spots and is obviously very accurate with the football and he's a winner."
A month off to prepare for the Gators should allow Bridgewater to get healthy. He’ll need to be healthy to have any success against the Gators.
Outside of the Cardinals head coach, there may not have been much familiarity among the two teams prior to this game. With a month to prepare, scouting reports, game film, scout team looks and media attention, you can bet that these teams will know more about their opponent for this game than any other they have faced this year.
On top of a month’s worth of preparation, they’ll have four quarters to get to know each other even better.
The result? I have a feeling this new found familiarity will breed no contempt. Just respect.
Florida in a close one.
Where To Watch Online: No. 21 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 3 Florida Gators