Florida Gators: Adrian Bushell

Florida-Louisville game preview

January, 2, 2013
1/02/13
8:00
AM ET
No. 3 Florida (11-1) vs. No. 21 Louisville (10-2)
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Mercedes-Benz Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
ESPN

Gators to watch

QB Jeff Driskel: The 6-foot-4, 237-pound sophomore played his best game of the season in the regular-season finale against Florida State. Even though he was still bothered by an ankle injury, Driskel remained composed -- despite being sacked four times and harassed by a pair of NFL defensive ends -- and hurt the Seminoles on rollout passes. It’ll be interesting to see how much he has benefitted from the 15 bowl practices in which he didn’t have to evenly split reps with Jacoby Brissett. A lot of players make significant jumps during the bowl practices, as CB Loucheiz Purifoy did last season. Is Driskel next?

DT Sharrif Floyd: This might be Floyd’s final game with the Gators because the 6-3, 303-pound junior is considering leaving early for the NFL. Floyd has been a disruptive force all season, with 11 tackles for loss, a sack, and six quarterback hurries (one shy of the team lead). He’ll be matched up against a pair of sophomore guards, John Miller and Jake Smith. The Cardinals average just 127.1 yards per game rushing and are without RB Senorise Perry, who tore his right ACL. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and still leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns. Floyd will be a big part of the Gators’ plan to make the Cardinals one-dimensional.

S Matt Elam: Elam is another player who could be appearing in his last game for Florida. The 5-10, 202-pound junior also is considering leaving early for the NFL after putting together an All-American season (65 tackles, four interceptions). He’s a rarity in that he can play safety but also has the one-on-one coverage skills to line up at nickel back. He made perhaps the biggest play of the season when he stripped LSU WR Odell Beckham after a 56-yard gain. The Gators went on to score a game-clinching touchdown and beat the Tigers.

Cardinals to watch

QB Teddy Bridgewater: The 6-foot-3, 220-pound sophomore ended the regular season ranked eighth nationally in pass efficiency. He was named the Big East’s Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was fantastic in the regular-season finale against Rutgers, when he came off the bench and rallied the Cardinals to a 20-17 victory to win the Big East title in one of the gutsiest performances of the season. Bridgewater had a broken left wrist and a severely sprained left ankle but he still managed to complete 20 of 28 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

CB Adrian Bushell: Bushell transferred from Florida after the 2009 season, spent a year at a junior college, and enrolled at Louisville just before the Cardinals started practices in 2011. It turned out to be a good move for the 5-11, 184-pounder from DeSoto, Texas, and the Cardinals. Bushell is a two-time first-team All-Big East selection and had a team-high 11 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, and an interception to go along with 59 tackles.

WR DeVante Parker: Parker has 38 catches for 712 yards and nine touchdowns this season. That’s a team-high 18.7 yards per catch. The 6-3, 204-pound sophomore is a touchdown machine. He has 15 touchdown catches on only 56 career receptions, which means he’s averaging a touchdown every 3.7 receptions. He’s also a big-play machine, because his 15 touchdown catches are averaging 29.5 yards.

Key matchup

Florida RB Mike Gillislee vs. Louisville LB Preston Brown

Expect a heavy dose of Gillislee today, especially with the state of the Cardinals’ rush defense. Louisville is giving up an average of 151.1 yards per game rushing and opponents have rushed for at least 196 yards in five of the past eight games. The 6-0, 257-pound Brown, who anchors the middle and leads the team with 96 tackles, is averaging 11.3 tackles in his last six games. Gillislee, a first-team All-SEC selection, has rushed for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns to become the first UF back to surpass 1,000 yards since 2004. Gillislee is coming off his best performance: 140 yards and two TDs against Florida State, which had the nation’s No. 1 rush defense.

By the numbers

2 -- Number of victories Louisville has posted over top-five teams. The Cardinals beat No. 3 West Virginia in 2006 and No. 4 Florida State in 2002.

3 -- Number of victories for Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Gators are 3-5, with victories over West Virginia (1994), Florida State (1997) and Cincinnati (2010).

12.9 -- Number of points per game Florida is allowing. It’s the fewest allowed in a season since 1964 (9.8).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s return to a BCS bowl comes against some familiar faces.

When No. 3 UF (11-1) plays Louisville (10-2) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, the Gators will be facing three former coaches and three former players -- including former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who is finishing his third season as head coach of the Cardinals.

Florida will be making its ninth appearance in the Sugar Bowl and first since 2010. The Gators are 3-5 in their previous appearances, with victories over West Virginia (1994), Florida State (1997) and Cincinnati (2010).

The Gators have reached a bowl game in 22 consecutive seasons, which is the longest active streak in the SEC.

UF is 2-0 against Louisville, winning 13-0 in 1980 and 31-17 in 1992.

Strong was UF’s defensive coordinator twice, from 2003-09 and from 1991-94, and he had two other stints in Gainesville (1988-89 and 1983-84). Strong was a huge part of UF’s two national titles under coach Urban Meyer. UF smothered Ohio State in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, holding the Buckeyes to just 82 yards in a 41-14 victory. In the 2008 title game, Strong’s defense held Oklahoma, which averaged 54.0 points per game and had scored a Football Bowl Subdivision record 702 points, to just 14 points.

In addition, two other former UF coaches are members of Strong’s staff: running backs coach/special teams coordinator Kenny Carter and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. Both were members of Meyer’s staff in 2008-09.

The Cardinals also have three former UF players on the roster. WR Robert Clark and TE Gerald Christian left UF in October 2011 before transferring to Louisville. CB Adrian Bushell left for Cedar Valley junior college following the 2009 season and transferred to Louisville in 2011.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Challenges Facing No. 1 FSU
Travis Haney discusses the challenges facing Florida State, which is ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches' poll, and teams outside of the Top 25 to watch.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

SEC SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Saturday, 8/30
Sunday, 8/31