What: Russell Athletic Bowl
When: Saturday, Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Where: Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium (65,438), Orlando, FL
Opening Line: Louisville -3.5
What matters: Louisville and Miami both entered the season with conference title aspirations and each ranked in the Top 10 earlier this year, but untimely losses (or loss, in Louisville's case) have the future ACC foes facing off in Orlando. Miami self-imposed a bowl ban each of the last two seasons, making this the Hurricanes first postseason appearance since the 2010 Sun Bowl. Charlie Strong has led Louisville to a bowl in each of his four seasons as head coach, and a victory could give the Cardinals back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in program history.
Who matters: Teddy Bridgewater finished the regular season ranked in the Top 5 nationally for completion percentage and passing efficiency, bouncing back from an uncharacteristic late season slump to throw three touchdowns in the Cardinals 31-24 regular season finale. The Hurricanes have been hit hard by injuries, but Stephen Morris has found a new home run threat in freshman wide receiver Stacy Coley. Looking to slow Coley down will be Louisville's veteran star safeties Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor.
Matchup question: Miami's offensive line runs around 6-5, 300 pounds across the board and topped the ACC with only 13 sacks allowed on the season, but the Hurricanes will have their hands full with a nasty Louisville defensive line led by Marcus Smith, Roy Philon and Lorenzo Mauldin. The Cardinals rank No. 3 nationally allowing just 4.27 yards per play and No. 4 with 39.0 sacks on the season. Neither Miami's defensive line nor Louisville's offensive line has been consistent this season, so this battle in the trenches seems like the best place to tip the scales between two pretty even teams.
Prediction: Even with an in-state bowl game, Miami might be at a disadvantage for simple reason that it is the program's first postseason appearance in the Al Golden era. Louisville should have a "business as usual" approach, looking to return to the same level of play that resulted in a Sugar Bowl win against Florida a year ago. Louisville 27, Miami 22