(6-6, 6-6 ATS)
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
(8-4, 6-6 ATS)
After years of struggles under Head Coach Steve Kragthorpe, the Louisville Cardinals are back in a bowl game. Head Coach Charlie Strong guided this team to the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, FL, where the Redbirds will meet up with the high octane Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
This is a great spot for Louisville to be in, as Strong knows that this is a young team that deserves and needs to be playing in front of a national, primetime audience in a standalone bowl game. It’s a great chance for senior RB Bilal Powell to strut his stuff one final time and to make a case to be playing ball at the next level. All of a sudden, after three relatively iffy years, Powell burst onto the scene in 2011, rushing for 1,330 yards and ten TDs. Though Strong really wanted to run more of a wide open passing attack when he came to town, Powell ended up impressing so much that he couldn’t be denied the football. The Redbirds really didn’t have the greatest offense in the world this year, averaging just 377.2 yards per game, but in the Big East, where there really aren’t that many prolific offenses, this was more than good enough to near finish .500 in conference play and to lock down a bowl bid. The Cards finished up the season snapping their two game losing streak by beating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 40-13 in the biggest win of the season. Watch out for how good this team is on the road, as Strong guided his men to three big time wins and one tremendous near upset against the Oregon State Beavers away from Papa John’s Stadium.
It doesn’t get much more bipolar than the Golden Eagles this year. They have one of the better offenses in the country at 461.1 yards and 37.6 points per game, but getting held to 13 points by the South Carolina Gamecocks and Louisiana Tech Bulldogs really erased the memories from the rest of the games on this schedule, which featured at least 31 points in all of them. In fact, the only team to hold SMS under 41 points since the beginning of October was the UCF Knights, the Conference USA champs, and the Eagles won that game 31-21 at Brighthouse Networks Stadium. The real problems though, came on the other side of the pigskin. The ‘D’ allowed at least 50 points twice this year and at least 41 five times. The overall numbers were bad, but not absolutely hideous, as surrendering 358.6 yards per game and 29.4 points per game wasn’t the end of the world. Still, it’s clearly not good enough, especially against a team that has a stout defense, to be giving up numbers like that in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl this year.
The Cardinals really deserve to win their bowl game like none other this year. They have fought tooth and nail just to get back to respectability after getting their proud program that was built up by Bobby Petrino destroyed. Strong gets his man in this one, as the Redbirds win the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.
Beef O’Brady’s Bowl Free Pick: Louisville Cardinals -3