NEW ORLEANS (AP) — 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."