Column: Louisville takes advantage of an uninspired Florida team

By Joe Morgan

NEW ORLEANS — Louisville wanted to be here.

The Cardinals were excited to play in the Sugar Bowl. After winning this year’s Big East Conference crown, a trip to the French Quarter was icing on a damn delicious cake.

A reward.

Louisville earned a chance to spar with a superpower from the almighty Southeastern Conference. An opportunity to shut up the annoying “S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!” chants.

For a program climbing to the top, the Cardinals seized the moment.

“I believe we made our statement for the upcoming season,” Louisville wide receiver Eli Rogers said after his squad’s dominant upset victory. “Versus a team like Florida, this means everything for our program going forward.”

The Gators didn’t want to be here.

After a magical 11-1 season, Florida watched two other one-loss SEC teams battle for the league title. Alabama and Georgia fought over a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. The Gators boasted the best resume in college football, but that wasn’t enough to earn them a shot at the national title. They were shut out.

The Sugar Bowl was a consolation prize. Nothing more.

What was in store for Florida had it proved victorious in New Orleans? They don’t make rings for 12-win seasons.

At least not the ones people remember.

When was the last time someone asked Jim Kelly to see his four AFC title rings?

Some Gators dreamed of the NFL. Others blew off curfew and partied through the night on Bourbon Street. The Sugar Bowl was nice, but Florida dreamed of Miami.

Notre Dame. The crystal football.

They didn’t care about a silly exhibition game. There was nothing more to accomplish. Their season was already over.

Why bother?

That was the Gator Nation’s attitude, too. Times are tough. The economy is bad. Why blow a lot of money to watch a football game that doesn’t even matter?

Watching the action in high definition from your couch was the preferred option, optimizing two sacred American values: cheapness and comfort.

The 54,178 fans that attended the Sugar Bowl marked the lowest turnout for this game since 1939.

Those who made the trip came to party. The Sugar Bowl was merely an excuse to ring in the New Year in style.

And they serve alcohol at bowl games, so “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” Go Gators!

Florida didn’t care about this game. Neither did its fans. Not really.

And who can blame them?

Schools like Louisville dream of the BCS. But until the Sugar Bowl becomes part of a playoff bracket in college football, don’t expect the big boys to play their hearts out.

It’s wrong. It’s lazy. You would expect a sense of pride to be at stake, but maybe that is too ideal. Maybe it is too much to ask when a system as flawed as the BCS is in place.

The Cardinals wanted to be here, and they acted like it. Good for them. They are a promising team headed in the right direction — quickly.

As for the Gators, they fell short of the ultimate prize. And no bowl victory was going to satisfy that that hunger. So why bother?

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