NEW ORLEANS -- Now that Charlie Strong has his Louisville Cardinals in a BCS bowl, of course fate would have it that his team's opponent is Florida, a program with which he won a pair of national titles.
Sugar Bowl officials announced on Sunday night that this season's game will pit the Cardinals of the Big East against the Gators of the Southeastern Conference on Jan. 2.
"It's a program of excellence and I really enjoyed my time there," said Strong, who was the Gators' defensive coordinator from 2003-2009. "I watch that program every week.
"I'm just happy for this program to get to a BCS bowl game. I don't know if it really matters who we play," Strong added. "I'm just so happy for our players."
Despite finishing behind Georgia in the Southeastern Conference East Division, No. 4 Florida (11-1, 7-1 SEC) got the Sugar Bowl bid because the winner of Saturday's SEC title game, Alabama, is headed to the BCS championship, while Georgia, which beat Florida and won the SEC East, was left with two losses after falling to the Crimson Tide and had a lower BCS ranking than the one-loss Gators.
While critics of the bowl system argued Georgia deserved a bowl on par with that of a Florida team they beat, Gators coach Will Muschamp hardly sounded sympathetic to that point of view.
"We started the season understanding the rules of engagement," he said. "These are the rules we started the year with and so be it."
Muschamp added that the Gators were "jacked-up" to be in the Sugar Bowl, despite the disappointment still felt from their lone loss to Georgia in their annual meeting in Jacksonville, a result which snuffed out their hopes of contenting for a BCS title.
"We had our opportunity in Jacksonville and didn't quite get it done to get into the national championship game, but we're going to play in the Sugar Bowl to represent our conference," Muschamp said. "We have great motivation for this game regardless of the circumstances."
No. 22 Louisville (10-2, 5-2 Big East) finished in a tie for Big East championship but earned its invitation to a BCS bowl thanks to having the highest BCS ranking of any team in the league. The Cardinals opened the season 9-0 before falling to Syracuse and Connecticut, but then beat Rutgers to lock up their league's BCS bid.
This will be Florida's ninth appearance in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators have won three of their previous eight appearances, including a 51-24 win over Cincinnati in the 2010 game. The Gators won a national title in the Sugar Bowl with a 52-20 victory over Florida State following the 1996 season.
Louisville will be playing in its first Sugar Bowl, making the Cardinals the fourth first-time participant in the game in the past six years.
Louisville and Florida have met twice before, with the Gators winning both in 1980 and 1992.
Florida won this year primarily with a rushing attack which averaged nearly 195 yards per game and was led by Mike Gillislee, and a highly rated defense that allowed only 12.9 points per game, the third-lowest average in the country.
Louisville rode a passing offense led by sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, which averaged nearly 296 yards per game. Bridgewater was beat up by the end of the season, but tough enough to play a crucial part-time role against Rutgers with a broken wrist and sore ankle. Strong now hopes that with a few weeks rest, Bridgewater will be in much better condition by the time his team lines up against the Gators.
"Our medical staff did an unbelievable job to get him ready for the Rutgers game, so now they have enough time," Strong said. "We've got to be smart on how we handle it."
Gildan New Mexico (Arizona 49, Nevada 48)
<a href="http://www.gildannewmexicobowl.com/">Arizona (pictured) vs. Nevada</a> Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 1:00 p.m. ET ESPN Albuquerque, New Mexico University Stadium
Famous Idaho Potato
<a href="http://www.famousidahopotatobowl.com/">Toledo (pictured) vs. Utah State</a> Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 4:30 p.m. ET ESPN Boise, Idaho Bronco Stadium
San Diego County CU Poinsettia
<a href="http://www.poinsettiabowl.com/">BYU (pictured) vs. San Diego State </a>Thursday, Dec. 20 8:00 p.m. ET ESPN San Diego, CA Qualcomm Stadium
Beef 'O' Brady's
<a href="http://www.stpetersburgbowl.com/">Central Florida (pictured) vs. Ball State</a> Friday, Dec. 21 7:30 p.m. ET ESPN St. Petersburg, Florida Tropicana Field
R+L Carriers New Orleans
<a href="http://www.neworleansbowl.org/">East Carolina (pictured) vs. UL-Lafayette</a> Saturday, Dec. 22 12:00 p.m. ET ESPN New Orleans, LA Mercedes-Benz Superdome
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
<a href="http://www.lvbowl.com/">Boise State (pictured) vs. Washington</a> Saturday, Dec. 22 3:30 p.m. ET ESPN Las Vegas, Nevada Sam Boyd Stadium
<a href="http://www.sheratonhawaiibowl.com/">Fresno State (pictured) vs. SMU </a>Monday, Dec. 24 8:00 p.m. ET ESPN Honolulu, Hawaii Aloha Stadium
Little Caesars Pizza
<a href="http://www.littlecaesarspizzabowl.com/">Central Michigan (pictured) vs. Western Kentucky</a> Wednesday, Dec. 26 7:30 p.m. ET ESPN Detroit, Michigan Ford Field
<a href="http://www.militarybowl.org/">Bowling Green (pictured) vs. vs. San Jose State</a> Thursday, Dec. 27 3:00 p.m. ET ESPN Washington, DC RFK Stadium
<a href="http://belkbowl.com/">Duke (pictured) vs. Cincinnati</a> Thursday, Dec. 27 6:30 p.m. ET ESPN Charlotte, North Carolina Bank of America Stadium
Bridgepoint Education Holiday
<a href="http://www.holidaybowl.com/">Baylor (pictured) vs. UCLA</a> Thursday, Dec. 27 9:45 p.m. ET ESPN San Diego, California Qualcomm Stadium
AdvoCare V100 Independence
<a href="http://independencebowl.org/">Louisiana-Monroe (pictured) vs. Ohio</a> Friday, Dec. 28 2:00 p.m. ET ESPN Shreveport, Louisiana Independence Stadium
<a href="http://shop.russellathletic.com/info/2012_Russell_Athletic_Bowl">Rutgers (pictured) vs. Virginia Tech</a> Friday, Dec. 28 5:30 p.m. ET ESPN Orlando, Florida Florida Citrus Bowl
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
<a href="http://meinekecarcarebowloftexas.com/">Texas Tech (pictured) vs. Minnesota</a> Friday, Dec. 28 9:00 p.m. ET ESPN Houston, Texas Reliant Stadium
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces
<a href="http://www.armedforcesbowl.com/">Air Force (pictured) vs. Rice </a>Saturday, Dec. 29 11:45 a.m. ET Fort Worth, Texas Amon G. Carter Stadium
New Era Pinstripe
<a href="http://web.pinstripebowl.com/index">West Virginia (pictured) vs. Syracuse</a> Saturday, Dec. 29 3:15 p.m. ET ESPN Bronx, New York Yankee Stadium
Kraft Fight Hunger
<a href="http://www.kraftbowl.org/">Navy (pictured) vs. Arizona State</a> Saturday, Dec. 29 4:00 p.m. ET ESPN 2 San Francisco, California AT&T Park
<a href="http://www.valeroalamobowl.com/main/">Texas (pictured) vs. Oregon State</a> Saturday, Dec. 29 6:45 p.m. ET ESPN San Antonio, Texas Alamodome
Buffalo Wild Wings
<a href="http://www.fiestabowl.org/buffalo-wild-wings-bowl.php">Michigan State (pictured) vs. TCU</a> Saturday, Dec. 29 10:15 p.m. ET ESPN Tempe, Arizona Sun Devil Stadium
Franklin American Mortgage Music City
<a href="http://www.musiccitybowl.com/">North Carolina State (pictured) vs. Vanderbilt</a> Monday, Dec. 31 12:00 p.m. ET ESPN Nashville, Tennessee LP Field
<a href="http://www.sunbowl.org/">USC (pictured) vs. Georgia Tech</a> Monday, Dec. 31 2:00 p.m. ET CBS El Paso, Texas Sun Bowl
<a href="http://www.libertybowl.org/">Tulsa (pictured) vs. Iowa State </a>Monday, Dec. 31 3:30 p.m. ET ESPN Memphis, Tennessee Liberty Bowl
<a href="http://www.chick-fil-abowl.com/default.aspx">LSU (pictured) vs. Clemson </a>Monday, Dec. 31 7:30 p.m. ET ESPN Atlanta, Georgia Georgia Dome
Heart Of Dallas
<a href="http://theheartofdallas.org/">Oklahoma State (pictured) vs. Purdue</a> Tuesday, Jan. 1 12:00 p.m. ET ESPNU Dallas, Texas Cotton Bowl
<a href="http://www.gatorbowl.com/wp-content/gba2013.php">Northwestern (pictured) vs. Mississippi State</a> Tuesday, Jan. 1 12:00 p.m. ET ESPN2 Jacksonville, Florida EverBank Field
<a href="http://www.capitalonebowl.com/">Georgia (pictured) vs. Nebraska</a> Tuesday, Jan. 1 1:00 p.m. ET ABC Orlando, FL Florida Citrus Bowl
<a href="http://www.outbackbowl.com/">Michigan (pictured) vs. South Carolina </a>Tuesday, Jan. 1 1:00 p.m. ET ESPN Tampa, Florida Raymond James Stadium
<a href="http://www.tournamentofroses.com/TheRoseBowlGame.aspx">Stanford (pictured) vs. Wisconsin</a> Tue., Jan. 1 5:00 p.m. ET ESPN Pasadena, California Rose Bowl
Discover Orange Bowl
<a href="http://www.orangebowl.org/">Florida State (pictured) vs. Northern Illinois </a>Tuesday, Jan. 1 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN Miami Gardens, Florida Sun Life Stadium
<a href="http://www.allstatesugarbowl.org/site.php">Florida (pictured) vs. Louisville</a> Wednesday, Jan. 2 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN New Orleans, Louisiana Mercedes-Benz Superdome
<a href="http://www.fiestabowl.org/">Oregon (pictured) vs. Kansas State </a>Thursday, Jan. 3 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN Glendale, Arizona U. of Phoenix Stadium
<a href="http://www.attcottonbowl.com/home/">Texas A&M (pictured) vs. Oklahoma</a> Friday, Jan. 4 8:00 p.m. ET FOX Arlington, Texas Cowboys Stadium
<a href="http://www.bbvacompassbowl.com/">Pittsburgh (pictured) vs. Ole Miss</a> Saturday, Jan. 5 1:00 p.m. ET ESPN Birmingham, Alabama Legion Field
<a href="http://www.godaddybowl.com/">Kent State (pictured) vs. Arkansas State</a> Sunday, Jan. 6 9:00 p.m. ET ESPN Mobile, Alabama Ladd-Peebles Stadium
BCS National Championship
<a href="http://www.bcsfootball.org/">Alabama (pictured) vs. Notre Dame</a> Monday, Jan. 7 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN Miami Gardens, Florida Sun Life Stadium