For the fourth time in six years, the Allstate Sugar Bowl will feature at least one brand new participant, and for the 2013 edition of the annual event, that participant is Louisville. Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum is a Florida program that will be making its second Sugar Bowl appearance in three years, and ninth overall. As if that isn’t enough, the matchup will pit the two schools against each other for the first time since 1992, and will serve as a reunion of sorts for third-year Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong, who was the Gators’ defensive coordinator from 2003-09.
Since Louisville’s four-way tie with Cincinnati, Rutgers, and Syracuse for the conference crown prevented an outright winner, the Cardinals earned their bid by way of the BCS rankings, which had the squad at No. 21 – the highest for a BIG EAST team. Though it’ll mark the third-straight postseason appearance for the Cardinals, it’s their first BCS bowl game bid since the 2006 Orange Bowl.
While Louisville has historically been shaky in bowl games, recording seven wins in 16 appearances, Strong knows a thing or two about what it takes to capture a victory. As mentioned earlier, Strong spent several seasons running the defense for Florida, and was a part of both national championship teams in 2006 and 2008. After inheriting a Louisville program that went 15-21 from 2007-09 with no postseason appearances, Strong quickly turned things around, as the Cardinals followed up consecutive 7-6 finishes with a 10-2 mark to conclude the 2012 regular season, the program’s first 10-win season in six years.
Despite Louisville’s growing momentum, defeating the third-ranked Gators will be no easy task. Though he’s technically only logged two years at the helm of Florida football, head coach Will Muschamp’s career spans over a decade and includes stints at LSU, Auburn, Texas, and the NFL’s Miami Dolphins prior to coming to Gainesville. After a bumpy debut season in which the squad went just 7-6, but won the Gator Bowl, the team of old returned this year in the form of a solid 11-1 overall record. The accomplishment marked just the fifth time in school history Florida has tallied 11 wins in the regular season. Additionally, the program has qualified for its SEC-best 22nd straight bowl game, and will look to extend its school-record streak to five consecutive postseason victories.
The Gators were triumphant in the only two previous meetings with Louisville in 1980 and 1992. They also are 3-5 all-time in the Sugar Bowl, with the most recent win coming in 2010 over Cincinnati. That victory, incidentally, is the only win for the SEC in the event over the past four years. The Sugar Bowl had previously been ruled by SEC teams, as a member school claimed victory six times in seven years from 2002-08. The last BIG EAST school to win at the event was West Virginia over Georgia in 2006. Prior to that, you’d have to go all the way back to 1982 when Pittsburgh, then an Independent, defeated Georgia as well.
The stage has been set for a thrilling evening of football, so shop in the Vivid Seats marketplace today, and purchase your 2013 Sugar Bowl tickets for the epic showdown on Jan. 2 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.