SEC: Louisville Cardinals
The game will be held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sept. 5, 2015.
For Auburn, it will mark its second trip to the Georgia Dome to play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. The Tigers lost to Clemson last year, 26-19, which was the start to a disappointing season.
It will be Louisville’s first appearance in the game. Coming off a Big East title and a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl last year, the Cardinals will likely match Auburn with name power.
“Louisville and Auburn represent two great football brands with incredible fan bases and a tradition of winning,” Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO, said in a statement. “The ACC vs. SEC is a tremendous rivalry that has proven to be a recipe for sellouts, high TV ratings and close, competitive games.”
Fore more on the 2015 game, click here.
Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News has a story on overall bowl attendance being down 5 percent this season, and it was most glaring in New Orleans on Wednesday night. The Sugar Bowl's announced crowd of 54,178 was the game's worst since 1939, and the smallest ever for a BCS bowl.
In other words, don't expect to see the Gators back on Bourbon Street any time soon if the Sugar Bowl has anything to do with it. Florida reportedly sold about 7,000 tickets of its 17,500 allotment. Louisville sold about 15,000.
The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl drew more fans this season than the Sugar Bowl. According to Solomon, this was the third time in the past four years the Sugar Bowl crowd was below 70,000, which had happened only twice from 1975 to 2009. Florida has now played in five of the past seven Sugar Bowls with crowds under 70,000.
The TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, which saw Northwestern defeat Mississippi State, also saw a decline in attendance. The crowd of 48,612 was its second smallest since 1960. The Capital One Bowl's announced crowd of 59,712 for Georgia-Nebraska was its fourth-lowest in the past 24 years.
Reaction to Louisville's 33-23 win over Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl:
It was over when: Louisville cornerback Andrew Johnson intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone and returned it 22 yards early in the fourth quarter. Florida was close to scoring a touchdown and cutting Louisville’s lead to 30-17, but Jeff Driskel threw a bit behind receiver Quinton Dunbar and the ball bounced off Dunbar’s hands. The Cardinals converted that turnover into a 33-yard field goal and a 33-10 lead. That lead turned out to be insurmountable.
Game ball goes to: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater shredded Florida’s defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass efficiency. The sophomore from Miami, Fla., completed 20 of 32 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Bridgewater was rarely pressured and pretty much had his pick of open receivers all night.
Stat of the game: Louisville was fantastic on third down and Florida wasn’t. The Cardinals went 9-for-14. Florida went 3-for-10 and the Gators didn’t get their first third-down conversion until the fourth quarter. Florida had entered the game fourth nationally in third-down defense (28 percent).
Unsung hero: Kick returner Andre Debose gave the Gators a glimmer of hope in the fourth quarter when he took a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to cut Louisville’s lead to 33-17.
Best call: It turned out to be meaningless in the final outcome, but the Gators scored their lone touchdown on a fake field goal late in the first half. Florida split several linemen out wide left but had fullback Trey Burton, running back Matt Jones and kicker Caleb Sturgis lined up behind the center. Burton took the snap and gave the ball to Jones on an option play and he scored from 1 yard out.
Second guessing: Florida coach Will Muschamp called for an onside kick to begin the second half trailing 24-10. It turned out to be disastrous. Not only did Louisville recover the ball, there was a skirmish after the play. Special teams standout Chris Johnson was ejected for throwing a punch, Loucheiz Purifoy was also penalized for a personal foul, and the Cardinals took possession at the UF 19-yard line. They scored a touchdown on the following play for a 30-10 lead.
What Louisville learned: The Cardinals program is in good hands with coach Charlie Strong and appears ready for its move to the ACC in 2014. Louisville is loaded with young talent -- 26 of the players on the two-deep depth charts on offense and defense are freshmen or sophomores -- and most importantly has a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in Bridgewater. The Cardinals gained a huge measure of momentum for next season with Wednesday night’s rout and will almost certainly be a preseason top 10 selection.
What Florida learned: The Gators didn’t learn anything new about their offense. The offensive line needs work, Driskel needs to improve, and there is a dearth of playmakers at receiver. However, it appears the Gators may not be as set on defense as they may have thought. Especially in the secondary, which was supposed to have been the team’s strength. The Gators were unable to slow down Louisville’s passing attack and the loss of Purifoy to an injury in the first half showed that the Gators don’t have much depth at corner.
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, New Orleans (ESPN)
Louisville take from Big East blogger Andrea Adelson: The Cardinals were the overwhelming preseason choice to win the Big East because they returned just about everybody off a team that won a share of the league title last season. The star among the bunch lived up to his top billing, as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater knocked just about everybody’s socks off with his performance in 2012. He is the biggest reason why Louisville is headed to the BCS and not a second-tier bowl game.
But this team had major adversity to overcome. Louisville survived one close call after another en route to a school-record 9-0 start. Then came loss No. 1 on the season, a stunning 45-26 blowout on the road to Syracuse in which the Orange outplayed the Cardinals in every single phase of the game. Then came loss No. 2, an inexplicable triple-overtime home defeat to UConn -- a team with one of the worst offenses in the nation. In that game, Bridgewater broke his wrist and sprained his ankle, yet nearly led a comeback win.
Louisville went into its regular-season finale at Rutgers without many people giving the Cards much of a shot to win. Rutgers jumped out to a 14-3 lead. But Bridgewater refused to be denied. Playing through his injuries, he led Louisville to a 20-17 comeback win to clinch the BCS spot. Bridgewater ended up throwing for 3,452 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season and was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the entire nation. He may have been an unknown outside the Big East before the season began; that is no longer the case.
Bridgewater allowed his team to survive the loss of leading rusher Senorise Perry, who tore his ACL against Syracuse and is out for the season. He allowed his team to win games it struggled in for a large chunk of time. And he allowed his team to survive some pretty shaky play on defense. It’s safe to say that many expected Louisville to be better than it was defensively this season, particularly up front. But for a majority of the season, the Cardinals had a hard time consistently stopping the run or consistently getting a pass rush going.
And yet, Louisville found a way to win 10 games and get back to a BCS game. In Teddy, Louisville trusts.
Florida take from GatorNation's Michael DiRocco: The Gators were one of the nation’s biggest surprises this season.
They followed up a 7-6 mark in coach Will Muschamp’s debut season with an 11-1 record in 2012, highlighted by victories over Texas A&M, South Carolina, LSU and Florida State. And if USC had upset Notre Dame, Florida could possibly be playing for the national title.
Florida’s turnaround was led by a smothering defense, which isn’t surprising considering Muschamp’s background. The Gators rank in the top six nationally in total defense, rush defense and scoring defense and have allowed opponents to throw just five touchdown passes. Safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and linebacker Jon Bostic have had career years.
But the biggest change is how good the Gators have been at forcing turnovers this season. UF forced just 14 in 2011, which was the lowest single-season total in school history since the school began compiling fumble stats in 1950. This year, UF has forced 29, which includes 19 interceptions (four by Elam), and the Gators have a plus-17 turnover margin.
UF’s offense hasn’t been pretty, but coordinator Brent Pease did a good job of compensating for a lack of playmakers at receiver and injuries along the offensive line. Running back Mike Gillislee finally got his chance to be the feature back, and he responded with 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns to become the first UF player to surpass 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
After finally settling on Jeff Driskel as the starter, Pease put together game plans that took advantage of Driskel’s mobility and didn’t ask the sophomore to do too much. Manage the game and stay away from mistakes were the goals, and Driskel did that this season with one exception (Georgia). He ended up throwing for 1,471 yards and 11 TDs -- many of those yards to tight end Jordan Reed (44 catches for 552 yards) -- with only three interceptions while running for 409 yards and four touchdowns.
The Gators could play conservatively on offense because of their outstanding defense, but also because of punter Kyle Christy and kicker Caleb Sturgis. Christy, a Ray Guy Award finalist, was a field-position weapon with a 46.1-yard average (fifth nationally) and 25 punts of 50 or more yards. Sturgis, a Lou Groza Award finalist, made 23 of 27 field goal attempts and is the school’s all-time leader in field goals (69) and field goals of 50 or more yards (eight).
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- As befitting a game with so many unknowns, it's scorelesss after one quarter.
Both coaching staffs have gone with conservative game plans. Louisville barely moved the ball until its last series of the quarter, when it marched down to the Kentucky 21. But true freshman kicker Chris Philpott's field goal was blocked.
Neither team has taken many chances downfield. Kentucky offensive coordinator Joker Phillips is trying to ease Mike Hartline in by having him rollout of the pocket and make short, safe throws. Louisville has been consistently playing five-man fronts and showing blitz off the edge with safeties, trying to bottle up the Kentucky running game. Hartline is 5-for-5 but only has 41 yards.
Meanwhile, Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell has completed just 4-of-9 passes and has underthrown his receivers a couple of times. He left one short for 6-foot-8 wideout Josh Chichester when a high lob might have resulted in a touchdown.
This game might come down to a big special teams play or turnover, because neither team seems to have much of an edge right now.