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No. 4 Florida, No. 22 Louisville in Sugar Bowl

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No. 4 Florida, No. 22 Louisville in Sugar Bowl

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.''

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.''

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Otto Porter's status in doubt for Game 6 against Raptors

Otto Porter's status in doubt for Game 6 against Raptors

There appears to be at least some chance the Wizards will be without starting small forward Otto Porter when they host the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of their first round playoff series on Friday night in Washington.

Porter, 24, continues to deal with a right lower leg strain. The injury is located on the outside of his calf and will require further testing from the Wizards' medical staff to determine his status.

Head coach Scott Brooks addressed the media on Thursday and did not rule out an MRI.

"We don't know as of yet, but he's banged up. So, hopefully we will find out some good news and see how he feels tomorrow," Brooks said.

Porter first suffered the injury on April 10 against the Celtics in the Wizards' penultimate regular season game. He missed the regular season finale, but has appeared in all five games of the Wizards-Raptors series.

Brooks did not make it seem likely that Porter will miss Game 6, but expressed uncertainty.

"Anything is possible," he said. "We hope for the best."

Porter appeared hobbled in Game 5 and has at other times this series as well. After the first two games of the series, Brooks was asked about Porter's health and said that he was "100 percent." It's unclear if Porter suffered a setback in the time between, but clearly that isn't the case anymore.

Porter is averaging just 10.0 points in this series, down from his 14.7 per game season average. Ideally, the Wizards would be getting more than that from their third scoring option.

"We need Otto," Brooks said. "We need Otto to be more of a nine or 10-point scorer for us to win this series."

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If this year is going to be different, the Caps cannot go down 0-2 in the series again

If this year is going to be different, the Caps cannot go down 0-2 in the series again

In last year’s playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals won two out of the last three games and three out of the last five…and still lost the series. That’s because they lost both Game 1 and Game 2 to fall into a 0-2 hole, much like they did against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round this season.

The Caps know if this year is going to be different, they cannot afford to fall into a similar hole again.

“It's always harder to dig yourself out of a hole,” head coach Barry Trotz said after Thursday’s morning skate. “You're room for error is a lot less and it wears on you.”

“If we've learned anything from last year, you lose two it's tough to climb out of that,” Jay Beagle said. “Then this year first round, lose two, it's tough to climb out. It makes the series really hard. You always feel like you're chasing and no room for error.”

It did not cost them against Columbus as Washington was able to rattle off four straight wins to advance to the second round. Overcoming a two-game hole against the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions, however, is a taller task.

For only the second time in franchise history, the Capitals were able to overcome a 0-2 series deficit when they did it against the Blue Jackets. That means it doesn’t happen very often.

Chances are you won’t be able to overcome a deficit like that against Sidney Crosby and Co.

And that’s what makes Game 1 so important.

Washington is at home, opening a series against their arch rival, the Penguins will be without both Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin and the game will be played with the memory of how a 0-2 hole cost the Caps the series last year.

To call it a must-win would perhaps be an overstatement. It is a best of seven after all. But it’s still not that far off.

“We've got to just make sure we're looking at game one, we're not looking ahead,” Beagle said. “We've got to go after them in this first game and really try and take it to them in our rink.”

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