Make no mistake: this Florida team could easily be playing in the national championship game. Nevertheless, here are five good reasons the Cards can win the Sugar Bowl:
Strength Where It Counts
There is no debate in the football world over which position is the most important one on the football field. There is almost no debate over which team has a decided edge at that position in this game. A smart, talented, (generally) mobile quarterback with a strong arm and a deft touch is the greatest equalizer in sports.
Florida's (Over)Reliance on Turnovers
The Gators have one of the nation's top defenses. But it is a defense that relies heavily on forcing turnovers. They recovered 10 fumbles and intercepted 19 passes, and their turnover margin per game of 1.42 tied for first in the SEC.
But this is the type of advantage an opposing team can flip in a one-off scenario. For instance, take the Syracuse game ... please. The Orange came into it worst in the Big East in turnover margin; yet they proceeded to play error-free football in that one game, and they cleaned our collective clock.
Florida, on the other hand, made six turnovers of its own against Georgia, and the last one probably cost the Gators a shot at the national title.
I'm not saying Louisville has to play error-free to win; I'm saying that if the Cards make one turnover and Florida makes one - or any other number that's even among the teams - then Louisville effectively has negated a huge advantage upon which Florida typically relies.
The X Factor: Consistency
Florida is a great team, but they haven't been much more consistent than has Louisville. Less than a month ago, the Gators had to score two touchdowns in the last minute - and block a punt and return it for a touchdown with two seconds left - to beat Louisiana Lafayette 27-20.
U of L is not UL-Lafayette.
A healthy Teddy Bridgewater probably doesn't overthrow four touchdown passes. Both these teams have a tendency to play to the level of their opponents. That always favors the underdog.
Familiarity Breeds Confidence
No, I'm not talking about the coaching staff - though that can't hurt. Many of Louisville's most important players have been playing against some of Florida's top players since their junior varsity days. Our kids know something deep down, from experience, that the rest of the country isn't ready to accept: that they damn-well do belong on the same field as those guys.
The Crucible Effect
Two minutes left in the third quarter with a BCS bid at stake. You're trailing 14-3. Your star quarterback is playing with one good arm and one good leg. Your running game has gained all of 80 yards in 10 quarters since your starting tailback went down. The whole world is telling you that your coach is about to abandon you. You're playing at night on the scene of your school's most heartbreaking loss ever. It is frickin' cold and everything hurts.
No one believes you can win this game. Only you do.
If you're reading this, you understand football well enough to know in your heart that the Cardinal team that emerged from that game is a different team - a far more dangerous team - than the one that went into that game. We've all seen the meeting of minds and hearts that took place between Shawn Watson and Teddy Bridgewater in the tunnel afterward.
The world has not seen this new Cardinal team play a game.
Far. More. Dangerous.
Does all this mean Louisville will beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl? Of course not.
Does it mean the Cards can beat Florida?
You bet your ass it does!