- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Louisville (7-5) takes on NC State (7-5) in the Belk Bowl tonight at 8 p.m. Here is a quick preview:
WHO TO WATCH: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. No question Bridgewater is the future in the Big East should he continue to develop and mature the way he has as a true freshman. Bridgewater set the single-season school record for passing yards, and has been praised for the poise and maturity he has shown as an 18-year-old taking over. There is no doubt that NC State will present a vareity of looks to try and confuse and rattle Bridgewater, but he is perfectly capable of rolling out to make plays with either his arm or his feet.
WHAT TO WATCH: Louisville D. The Cardinals have been one of the best in the Big East for a reason -- they are good at stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. Louisville has held opponents to under 100 yards rushing in seven games this season, and has gotten better as the year has worn on. Though defensive end Greg Scruggs did not make the trip, the Cardinals are used to playing without him because he was dealing with an injury during the season. B.J. Dubose and Lorenzo Mauldin will shoulder the load.
WHY TO WATCH: Get a sneak peak now at a team that many believe will be ranked in the preseason Top 25 in 2012. The Cardinals have some of the best young talent in the entire nation, and it all starts with Bridgewater and his receiver tandem in Eli Rogers and DeVante Parker. On defense, you have rising stars Calvin Pryor and Andrew Johnson. There is a reason many regard Charlie Strong as one of the best coaches and recruiters in the business. He has taken a program that had floundered under Steve Kragthorpe and re-energized it. To be able to go back to a bowl game with so many young starters and contributors can only mean good things for the future.
PREDICTION: Louisville 24, NC State 20. From my Monday predictions post: Louisville goes into the game on a bit of a hot streak, having closed the season with a 5-1 mark. The Cardinals have simply found their identity. This offense is not going to light up the scoreboard, but it has become more efficient and balanced since play-calling duties switched to Shawn Watson. The defense has been solid, and will be one of the best the Wolfpack have faced this season. Louisville ranks No. 10 nationally in rushing defense (103.5 ypg), No. 14 in scoring defense (19.2 ppg) and No. 23 in total defense (327.8 ypg).