Florida vs. Louisville in Sugar Bowl

It’s official: No. 3 Florida will battle No. 21 Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 in New Orleans, La. It’s the Florida Gators’ ninth trip to the Sugar Bowl.

It will be the first time in two decades Florida and Louisville have hooked up on the football field. Both meetings were UF homecoming games won by the Gators with a 13-0 victory in 1980 and a 31-17 win in 1992.

Of course, the Gators will be facing off against a familiar face in Charlie Strong, the Cardinals’ third-year head coach. Strong has had four different coaching stints at UF, where he began his career as a graduate assistant in 1983.

Strong coached UF’s outside linebackers from 1988-89, was assistant head coach/defensive tackles coach from 1991-94 and then held three different positions at various times from 2002-09, including defensive coordinator and interim head coach.

Louisville, which finished the regular season 10-2 overall and 5-2 in Big East play, announced its move to the ACC this past week. The Cardinals beat Rutgers 20-17 Thursday to secure a BCS bowl berth in what essentially served as a Big East Championship game.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did not start the game because of a broken wrist and a sore ankle, but was able to come off of the bench to throw a pair of second half touchdown passes to help his team rally from a 14-3 halftime deficit for the win.

As for Florida, the Gators are in a BCS bowl because they moved ahead of Georgia in the BCS Standings after the Bulldogs lost 32-28 against Alabama in Saturday’s SEC Championship game. The Gators finished the regular season 11-1, with the lone loss coming against Georgia in a game when Florida coughed up six turnovers before losing 17-9.

Half of Florida’s eight Sugar Bowl appearances came between 1992-97 with coach Steve Spurrier guiding the Gators to four trips to New Orleans during the six-year span. That includes a 52-20 victory against Florida State for the 2006 National Championship, which was played Jan. 2, 1997.

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Mike Capshaw brings a wealth of experience to the Gator Country team. He’s been overseeing all editorial aspects of GatorCountry.com and Gator Country magazine by managing our team of staffers, interns and freelancers. He is now moving into a bigger role as a reporter by covering the football and basketball beats as well as providing coverage of all sports on campus. Mike’s 15 years in the business has included more than six years of covering SEC sports and recruiting at a daily newspaper in Arkansas. He has also helped launch a newspaper, magazines, websites and even a sports talk radio show. Because Mike puts family ahead of his career, he left the place where he was established when his wife received an opportunity to further her career at UF. He took a leap of faith that he could find a job in the Gainesville area and worked for a year at a newspaper group before joining the Gator Country family in November, 2011. Mike has won Florida Press Association awards for Best Sports Game Story and Best Sports Feature Story in the past two years as well as a company-wide award at his former newspaper group that includes some 60 publications, for Excellence in Sports Reporting. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeCapshawGC.