Bowls. There are a ton of them, and you're going to watch at least a few this holiday season. You may even engage in a gentlemanly wager concerning the outcomes. While we urge you not to bet on it, in the vent that you did we have some thoughts on the subject of college bowl games in general, and the Russell Athlwetic Bowl in particular.
The Russell Athletic Bowl in 30 seconds or less.
You could be forgiven for hearing the phrase "Russell Athletic Bowl" and wondering which one that is. The Bowl they play in Canada? That one where Britney Spears did the halftime show with her kid balanced on one hip? The one your boss gave you tickets to a couple of years ago when he ran out of lotto scratchers?
No. Or in the case of the last one probably not. The Russell Athletic Bowl is played at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando and has variously been known as the CarQuest, Blockbuster, Champs Sports, and MicronPC.com bowls, and last year featured a 13-10 overtime victory by Virginia Tech over Rutgers in the last college football game Greg Schiano found a way to lose before moving on to find ways to lose NFL games.
This year's iteration features a battle between the Louisville Cardinals (11-1,7-1 AAC) and the Miami Hurricanes (9-3, 5-3 ACC). Louisville (-3.5) is the favorite.
The 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl: A Bridge(water) too far?
There are some story lines in this one which make you think the Russell Athletic Bowl committee actually cares if people watch their game. Don't laugh, that can't be said of every pod of bowl poobas. For one, it's likely the final college game for Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, a serious contender for the top selection in the 2014 NFL Draft until the NFL front office folks can figure out all the reasons not to take him (Give them time, they'll figure out a reason).
Bridgewater will be facing off against his home town team, the one to which he actually verbally committed before switching to Louisville. Bridgewater was supposed to be the centerpiece of Randy Shannon's 2011 Hurricane recruiting class. Instead Shannon got the ax, Al Golden wasn't able to hold onto Bridgewater, and history has moved on from there.
Bridgewater of course really made his name last year, especially in picking apart a Florida Gator defense in the Sugar Bowl after they'd long since ceased to give a damn. Now Bridgewater is himself the hunted, the leader of the favored team. Now the mantle of up-an-coming QB falls to Miami signal caller Stephen Morris, who many now see as a future NFL-caliber passer.
Morris will, however, have to contend with Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith, a guy who started out as a quarterback (oh, the irony!) and is now a significant edge rushing threat. One of the big factors in the outcome of this game will be how well Miami handles the Louisville pass rush, and whether they can establish a running game to keep that rush in check. That's going to be tough without standout tailback Duke Johnson (lost for the season 7 games in), who's been replaced by Dallas Crawford (who's managed a pedestrian 46 yards per game in his absence).
Motivation is always a factor in bowl games, and it will be interesting to see how these teams come out of the gate. After that Sugar Bowl win over Florida (which given the entirety of 2013 now looks a little less impressive) Louisville was a trendy pick to play for it all in 2013, and Bridgewater was a dark horse candidate for the Heisman. I never really bought either of those scenarios, and I'm not really certain how much Charlie Strong's team did, or whether they're over neither of them coming to fruition.
Miami on the other hand started the season on a 7-0 tear before stumbling to a 2-3 finish that began with a 41-14 thumping at the hands of Florida State. The Canes are bowling for the first time since 2010, which may be good for a little juice. I just don't think it will be enough juice, especially without Duke Johnson in the backfield to help Morris out. Dawg Sports prediction: Louisville 41, Miami 31.