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December 8, 2013
Top 5 Russell Athletic Bowl storylines
The No. 16 Louisville Cardinals will take on 9-3 Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando. Louisville accepted a bowl bid Thursday night. It wasn't until Sunday night that Miami found out its bowl location.
The Hurricanes, Virginia Tech Hokies and Duke Blue Devils were all available to be picked by either the Chick-Fil-A Bowl or Russell. The ACC preferred to send Duke to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. That move helped the Russell pick up what figures to be an exciting pairing of Louisville and Miami.
The storylines in this game are plentiful.
1. TEDDY VS. MIAMI
Louisville's star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is from Miami Northwestern High. He was a former Hurricane commitment his junior year before he visited Louisville and switched to the Cardinals.
Bridgewater and nearly three dozen of his teammates have roots in Florida, making Miami a ready-made rival.
Miami starting quarterback Stephen Morris told the Miami Herald: "Obviously Louisville is a great program and Teddy is a great quarterback. I think it would be a great opportunity for two Miami kids to shine on a big stage. I wish him all the best.''
On Saturday, Miami backup quarterback Ryan Williams said, "You know (Bridgewater) is going to play hard because he's from down here. He knows a lot of us. He grew up with a lot of us on the team. He's played great all season. I'm sure he won't play any less against us.''
2. HURTT VS. MIAMI
Miami has not played in a bowl since 2010 due to self-imposed sanctions stemming from the Nevin Shapiro allegations in a Yahoo! Sports story in 2009. Louisville defensive line coach Clint Hurtt previously worked at Miami and was given a two-year show cause punishment due to the NCAA's opinion of his involvement in the NCAA infractions.
When the NCAA's decision was handed down, among Hurtt's statements was a reiteration that he still sincerely loves the Miami program, his alma mater and the program he worked to improve for half a decade before he left for Louisville in 2009.
3. A RETURN TO 10 WINS
The Hurricanes haven't won a bowl since 2008, losing its last three appearances including a 33-17 loss to Notre Dame in the 2010 Sun Bowl. New coach Al Golden is trying to rebuild a Miami program that was previously dominant.
Louisville has won 10 or more games the last two seasons. A win against Louisville and the U will have its first 10-win season since 2003.
The last time Miami played in Orlando the bowl was then called the Champs Sports Bowl. Miami lost 20-14 to Wisconsin in a heavy downpour.
4. CLOSE FRIENDS BATTLE
Louisville's top young linebacker, James Burgess, was a former Miami commitment who is also a Hurricane legacy. His father played for the Canes and also in the NFL.
His close friend from Homestead High School, Herb Waters, signed with Miami and was one of the Canes' best receivers this season with 28 catches for 406 yards and five touchdowns.
Burgess and Waters spoke frequently about hoping to play together in college, and appeared headed that direction before Burgess de-committed and switched to Louisville less than a month before National Signing Day.
5. FUTURE RECRUITS
Now that Louisville will be in the ACC - the two teams could open the 2014 season against each other - Louisville's ability to snag recruits from the Miami area becomes even more potent. The Cardinals and Canes have already squared off in quite a few recruiting battles, and now Louisville is on equal conference footing.
"We are really excited about going back to Florida for a game, and we are very appreciative to be playing a quality opponent in Miami," Strong said. "Many of our players are from the south Florida area and that area is crucial for us building the program."
These games will decide future recruiting battles. Miami will want to continue keeping its top stars at home. Louisville - along with Florida, Florida State and others - will continue visiting high school hotbeds like Southridge, Northwestern, Central and many others looking for top talent.
In Louisville's current recruiting class, four players are from the Miami area. Top defensive end recruit Rashawn Shaw is from Fort Pierce Central, top defensive back recruit Michael Johnson is from Hialeah's Champagnat Catholic, Marques Gayot is from Lake Worth Park Vista and wideout George Rushing is from Ft. Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons.