After being tabbed as the favorites to win the American Athletic Conference in its first season in existence, the Louisville Cardinals have fallen a bit short of that goal. Finishing the season with an 11-1 record wasn’t enough to put them in a BCS bowl game nor was it enough to win their own conference.
In the same type of way, the Miami Hurricanes have been dubbed a disappointment. However, they weren’t expected to do too much in the ACC until after their 7-0 start to the year. However, three consecutive losses led to a broken season as well as lost hope for a BCS game.
Louisville is looking to put an exclamation point on an otherwise disappointing season — even though they had just one loss — with a win over a solid Miami team. Teddy Bridgewater is widely considered the top overall pick in the upcoming draft and he might just be the best overall QB in college football. Bridgewater has passed for 3,523 yards and 28 touchdowns for the 18th-best passing offense in the nation, hitting DeVante Parker 46 times for 743 yards and 11 touchdowns. Dominique Brown leads the run game with 783 yards and eight touchdowns.
Miami has lost one of its top weapons on offense in the middle of the season with a devastating leg injury that ended his season. Duke Johnson is the player I’m talking about and the running back is one of the best in the nation, rushing for 920 yards and six scores before his injury; Dallas Crawford has filled in, rushing for 523 yards and 12 touchdowns. Stephen Morris is the veteran quarterback that was expected to do big things this season, but he has been somewhat inconsistent, passing for 2,868 yards and 21 touchdowns. The senior’s favorite target has been wide out Allen Hurns who has caught 60 passes for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns.
Defensively, the Hurricanes were solid for the first seven games of the season, but three straight 40-plus point games changed that. Miami ranks 58th in points allowed per game while also ranking 93rd in yards allowed per game. Louisville has been much better than most teams expected on this side of the ball, ranking third in points allowed per game as well as second in yards allowed per game.
Miami and Louisville will face off in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl in Miami, Fla., at 6:45 p.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 28. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Miami 24, Louisville 31
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.