5 Reasons To Watch Russell Athletic Bowl

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5 Reasons to Watch the Russell Athletic Bowl

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The No. 18 Louisville Cardinals and Miami Hurricanes will face off in the Russell Athletics Bowl on Saturday in one of the most intriguing matchups of the 2013 college football bowl season.

The 11-1 Cardinals finished the season in the top-25, but missed out on the first-ever American Athletic Conference title by a single loss to UCF.

On the other hand, the Hurricanes lost three straight games to start the month of November, finishing 9-3.

This game will feature some fantastic players and more than a few future NFL players. Even without Miami running back Duke Johnson in the mix, guys like Stephen Morris and Teddy Bridgewater will provide more than enough excitement in this content.

While the two quarterbacks might be the best players on the field at any given time, the game itself could come down to who can play better defense. We've seen both teams struggle to win when their defenses are too lenient, but both look unbeatable when their defenses are on point.

Louisville's lone loss this year came in the only game that the team gave up more than 24 points in. Similarly, Miami was 9-0 when allowing 31 points or fewer, but 0-3 when allowing more than four touchdowns and a field goal.

Each team has its magic number on defense, but playing against an NFL-caliber quarterback could be difficult. This game could easily come down to which defense comes away with more timely stops.

Let's take a look at the top five reasons to watch these two star-studded teams do battle on December 28.

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5. Louisville Seeks Revenge For Missing Out on BCS Bowl

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals of Louisville were expected to be among the top teams in the American Athletic Conference, and they didn't disappoint. However, the team did end up losing a crucial game against UCF, which ended up costing it the conference title and a trip to a BCS Bowl game.

That 38-35 loss, during which Bridgewater was held without a touchdown in the second half, has come back to haunt the Cardinals. UCF will play Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, and the Cardinals are left to play the Hurricanes.

Louisville looked like it was destined for a BCS Bowl game in the beginning of the season, but the team was snubbed. Now it's looking to prove that it deserved a chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl by beating up on Miami.

However, it might not be that easy.

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4. Miami Looks to Overcome Loss of Duke Johnson

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Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Miami's hopes of shocking the world and playing in a BCS Bowl game essentially died in the third quarter against No. 3 Florida State when star running back Duke Johnson went down.

It was later revealed that the sophomore standout broke his ankle on the play, requiring surgery and keeping him on the sidelines for the rest of the season.

Miami started the year 7-0 before Johnson went down, but stumbled to the finish line, going 2-3.

However, the team looks to overcome the loss of one of their brightest stars as it has over the past two games.

The play of quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Dallas Crawford will be key in this game as the offense now runs through them. Crawford's 12 touchdowns on the year showed just how effective he can be, while Morris was listed as the top senior quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft by Todd McShay before the season started.

Miami has the talent to win this game without Johnson, but it will be interesting to see how they account for the loss of such a talented back.

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3. Louisville's Stout Defense Faces Biggest Test of the Year

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The key to Louisville's success this season has been the play of its stingy defense, which ranks third in points allowed at just 12.4 per game.

However, the Cardinals haven't faced an offense as talented as that of Miami this season. The Hurricanes rank 26th in the nation with 35.9 points per game, which is better than any opponent Louisville has faced in 2013.

Louisville's defense will be key in this game. It's allowed more than 13 points only three times this season, and the team's only loss came when it allowed 35 points to UCF.

The Cardinals will have their hands full with Morris and Crawford, and it will be interesting to see if Louisville's defense is as good as advertised, or if it is simply a product of playing against poor offenses.

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2. Can Miami End Bowl Game Woes?

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being one of the storied programs in college football, Miami has struggled to win when it matters. The team has lost its last three bowl games, and hasn't won one since the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl.

While Miami has struggled, the ACC has been on fire in the Russell Athletics Bowl, winning nine of the last 10, including each of the last three.

Miami will look to continue that trend, but it faces a Louisville team that has been tough to beat in the postseason.

The Cardinals are 3-1 in their last four bowl games, including Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl victories.

Miami fans have had to suffer through three straight bowl losses, but the Hurricanes are hoping to change that on Saturday.

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1. This Could Be Teddy Bridgewater's Last CFB Game

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Teddy Bridgewater hasn't decided whether or not he will come back to Louisville in 2014 or declare for the NFL Draft. However, he certainly has the option to turn pro if he wants to.

Bridgewater is widely regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in this draft class, and would certainly be a first-round pick if he were to declare. In fact, a good game against Miami could push him up the rankings, and he could potentially end up as a top-five pick.

Bridgewater has been one of the best quarterbacks in the nation for the past two seasons, passing for 3,523 yards and 28 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions in 2013. There isn't much left for him to do in college, which is why this could be the last time we get to watch him put on a Louisville uniform.

You hate to see the greats leave the college game, but this could be the final time we see this one play.

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