GAME DAY: Cards vs. Gators in NOLA

Charlie Strong

NEW ORLEANS - It's finally Game Day! The University of Louisville football team will compete in the school's second BCS Bowl Game tonight in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Florida. Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. EDT in the Mercedes SuperDome. Cardinal Authority has five keys to the game:

Here are five keys to the Sugar Bowl for the University of Louisville:

1. Get the run game going: It's been the one thing the coaching staff has stressed since the matchup was announced. The Cardinals must get Jeremy Wright – and Corvin Lamb – some touches early and get them some yards. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson equated the game to being like an NFL game in that you "just want to get three and four-yard runs, those are good, solid runs." It's been tough going for U of L in the run game since losing Senorise Perry to a knee injury against Syracuse. Florida is big, strong and physical on defense and the Gators will be tough to get going on. Watson is hoping to get Wright to the edge on one of the first few plays of the game and then let Teddy Bridgewater get going and hopefully loosen up the run support. Lamb could be a key. He's featured in the game plan quite often if they want to use his package, but a lot could dictate early success.

2. Force Florida to pass the ball: On the flip side, the Cardinals defense must stop the run. Florida is not very good in the passing game, ranked No. 114 nationally, and some figure they will try to throw it around early in the game. The U of L defense must tackle and eliminate any big plays. This is not the Florida from the Fun ‘N Gun days where they threw it all over the lot, so hopefully the Cardinals won't let them get into that mode and make them work for it.

3. Don't let Matt Elam beat you: U of L quarterback Teddy Bridgewater summed up junior Florida safety Matt Elam as a "total freak of nature." The first-team All-American can be the difference maker, he has four interceptions and seemingly is all over the field, especially in big games. "I have to know where he's at all the time," Bridgewater said. "He's somebody I have to have an eye on." The real key for Bridgewater is to make sure Elam doesn't get the Gators going.

4. Turnovers will be a big key: Louisville only has 12 turnovers this season and must play clean football. On the flip side, the Gators have won several games because they forced turnovers. They have 19 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries and 10 of those INTs came against top-10 teams. Florida has allowed just 29 fourth-quarter points this season.

5. Use the fan support: U of L is expected to have upwards of 30,000 fans in attendance and is likely to outnumber the Gators, so the Cardinals have to use it. They need to get something going early in the game and keep the Card fans in it. You can bet the C-A-R-D-S chant will only get louder with an early score.

Prediction: Florida is clearly the favorite and even the Cardinals know it. But there's a quiet confidence within the U of L camp. I came to New Orleans thinking it was going to be close for a while and then the Gators pull away. But after watching and listening, I think it's going to be a great game. I still think it will be tough for the Cardinals to pull out a win but I'll say Florida 21-13.

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