Russell Athletic Bowl, Saturday, 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Suggested slogan: The second-best annual college football game in one of the worst stadiums in the country
How Miami got here: By not foregoing a bowl game this year, for a change. With the Nevin Shapiro mess finally behind them, the Hurricanes are BACK -- in a midtier ACC bowl. And it looked for a time like Miami might be back completely, reeling off a seven-game winning streak before reality hit in back-to-back-to-back, double-digit losses at Florida State, against Virginia Tech and at Duke(!), which ended up being the only three defeats of the year. Star running back Duke Johnson was also out for the entirety of two of those three losses after a season-ending injury; Johnson had already rushed for 920 yards and six touchdowns before missing the last four games. Stephen Morris has been Stephen Morris, going 186-of-317 passing for 2,868 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The offense is good but not elite and the defense is for the most part subpar.
How Louisville got here: When it lost to UCF, more or less. The Cardinals chance at an undefeated season, American Athletic Conference title and just maybe a national championship all crashed and burned in the three-point loss to the Knights, which marked the first time in the 2013 season that anyone had come within less than 14 points of Louisville. (It would happen three more times after that.) The star of the team is Teddy Bridgewater, who went 268-of-382 passing for 3,523 yards, 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He does a good job of spreading the ball around The defensive leader is Marcus Smith, with 12.5 sacks among his 16.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles and a blocked kick to go along with it. But because of the attention that Bridgewater gets, very few people realize that the defense is one of the elite units in the game.
College football fans care because: It is likely Bridgewater's last game at the college level, and Charlie Strong is probably going to be connected to your program's head coaching job at some point in the next five seasons.
SEC fans care because: Charlie Strong is going to be connected to your program's head coaching job at some point in the next three seasons.
Bottom line: Louisville got a lot of hype going into this season, and might have actually gotten a chance to play for the national title if they had managed to defeat UCF. But the Cardinals have often looked a little bit average in their nationally televised games, at least to my eyes, which is why I wouldn't be surprised to see this turn out to be a very tight game. But Bridgewater is too much for Miami in the end. Louisville 24, Miami 20
Line: Louisville by 3.5