Taxslayer Bowl Preview- UofL versus MSU

Zach Combest, Website Editor

The Louisville Cardinals have ditched the snow boots and picked up the sunglasses this week.

The Louisville Cardinals football team is gearing up for their upcoming bowl game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

The Cards will face the Bulldogs on Dec. 30 in Jacksonville, Florida. They will be playing in the Taxslayer Bowl game. The Cards have been preparing all week in Florida for the game.

The 8-4 Cardinals will take on the 8-4 Bulldogs and many people have their eyes on the matchup. This is the Cardinals 22 bowl game appearance after coming off of last year’s tough lose to LSU in the Citrus Bowl 29-9. The Cards have many players from the state of Florida so this game is a homecoming for them. Even the Cards star Quarterback and 2016 Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson is from Pompano Beach, Florida.

The Cardinals enter postseason play on a high note, looking for their fourth-straight win after closing the year with victories over Virginia, Syracuse and Kentucky to secure their eighth consecutive trip to the postseason. During this three game winning streak, the Cardinals’ offense has been one of the best in the country averaging 46.0 points per game and over 550 yards of offense, according to the UofL football website. The Bulldogs will have to stop Jackson and the UofL running game. So far this season, the Bulldogs have been solid against the run, holding opponents to just 127 rushing yards per game this far, which translates to 3.73 yards per carry. Contrast that to Louisville, who is averaging 6.58 yards per attempt.

Both teams have been preparing for the matchup all week. The Cards are coming into this bowl game as the favorites, but they wont have all their key weapons on the field on Saturday. The team announced today that cornerback Jaire Alexander will sit out of the bowl game and enter the NFL draft. Alexander has been a key player on the defense and many NFL scouts have been watching him over the past couple years at UofL. Linebacker James Hearns will also skip out on the bowl game for the Cardinals and enter the NFL draft early. This leaves the Cardinals defense weak in areas. Jonathan Greenard and Trevon Young are more than capable of picking up the slack while Hearns sits out, but not having a talented athlete in Hearns in the rotation doesn’t help the Cardinals. Senior Jonathon Tegarden said, “I expect our second string to step up in those positions, with Jaire missing most of the season we have an experienced secondary already. Hearns will be a hard one to cover, but I believe they’ll do fine with extra weeks of practice before the game.”

“That’s college football right now, and I want to be supportive of the players right now, that we have,” said UofL defensive coach Peter Sirmon. “And if they feel that’s in their best interests, I wish them nothing but success, and hopefully they achieve all the things that they hope this decision will achieve. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge when you get the news. Obviously you’d rather get it early in the bowl preparation than later.”

Drew Bailey, a senior defensive lineman for whom the bowl game is a homecoming, wouldn’t miss it for the world. He said he’s already on the look for at least 18 tickets for friends and family members, and that more call every day.

Louisville and Mississippi State have met four times. The Bulldogs are 4-0 against the Cardinals, with all wins coming from 1973-76, but Mississippi State eventually forfeited their victories in 1975 and ‘76.

With all of this said, my prediction is Louisville 31 Mississippi State 24.