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Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl Analysis Southern Miss vs. Louisville

Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Louisville

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 8:00 PM ET ESPN

Laying the scene

Louisville hasn't played in a bowl game since their Orange Bowl win over Wake Forest following the 2006 season when they finished 12-1. Consider Charlie Strong's first season at the helm a (mild?) success considering the Cardinals have failed to reach the bowl season in the previous three seasons, and things just got a little better for the program with two more recruits verbally committing on Monday—former 'Canes commits QB Teddy Bridgewater and WR Eli Rogers of Miami Northwestern. That's now eight recruits from the state of Florida for Strong and 22 overall. A bowl win would send this ship in the right direction as Strong looks to continue his resurrection of the program.

Three of the Golden Eagles' four losses this season have come against teams who will play in bowl games. They have gone to a bowl game 13 of the past 14 seasons and the last nine in a row. This matchup marks their 22nd appearance in a bowl game all-time with a 10-11 bowl record in their history. Southern Miss and Louisville have played on several occasions throughout their histories, including as Conference USA foes from 1995 to 2005.

What Southern Miss has to do to win

Maintain balance on offense. The Golden Eagles rank 21st in rushing offense and 31st in passing offense. If they maintain their balance to keep the Louisville 'D' off balance, they'll get an early advantage in controlling the game. Running backs Kendrick Hardy and Desmond Johnson have rushed for over 500 yards apiece this season, while quarterback Austin Davis added 436 yards of his own. Passing-wise, four players have had at least three receiving touchdowns and three have accumulated 400 or more receiving yards. Defensively, continuing to stop teams on third downs will be key as the Cardinals will likely rely heavily on their rushing game to move the ball.

What Louisville has to do to win

Get running back Bilal Powell going early. The Southern Miss rushing defense is ranked 13th in the nation, letting up an average of 113 yards per game, but keep in mind that South Carolina (224), East Carolina (305), UAB (223) and Tulsa (228) managed more than 200 yards on the ground. Three of the five teams that the Golden Eagles D held to under 100 yards rushing rank in the bottom half of the nation in rushing offense (Marshall [113th], Memphis [116th] and Houston [61st]) and Prairie View A&M is an FCS team. If they can move the ball consistently on the ground with Powell — the nation's 10th leading rusher — they'll have success against the Golden Eagles. Don't forget also that the Cardinals have an excellent defense that ranked 12th in the nation this season and 15th in scoring defense, letting up 18.67 points per game.

The call

Louisville. Whichever team controls the game by pounding the ball will come away with the win. The Cardinals may be coming off a couple of tough losses to South Florida and West Virginia before their route of Rutgers, but they'll use their tough ground game led by Powell to grab control of the game. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

Email Danny at or follow him on Twitter at DannyHobrock

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