ORLANDO — The Russell Athletic Bowl might have sort of a Miami celebration feel to it.
After two years of self-imposed bowl exile during an NCAA investigation, Miami will play in its first bowl since 2010 when it meets No. 18 Louisville in the Dec. 28 matchup at Orlando’s Florida Citrus Bowl.
The game is also a Miami reunion for Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. A native of the South Florida city, he will be lined up against the school he grew up watching and initially committed to coming out of high school.
But most importantly, it will be a chance for Bridgewater and Louisville (11-1) to put a happy stamp on a season that fell short of the school’s second straight BCS appearance. The Cardinals, coming off a Sugar Bowl win, lost that chance after blowing a 21-point lead in their lone loss of the year to BCS-bound UCF back in October.
The setback also dealt a big blow to Bridgewater’s Heisman Trophy campaign. But with about 25 players on Louisville’s roster with Florida ties, Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said it’s nice to give them a homecoming.
“We’re always trying to raise expectations and always trying to lift the profile of Louisville,” Strong said. “With us ending the season against this opponent, it will give a lot of viewers that are watching the opportunity to see what type of team we have.”
The Hurricanes (9-3) won their first seven games of the season and rose as high as No. 7 in The Associated Press rankings before losing three in a row to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke.
The disappointments this season have done little to diminish Miami’s return to the bowl season, though, after sitting out back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012 because of the NCAA investigation centered on the actions of Nevin Shapiro, a former booster who was also running a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Miami will also be getting a preview of a future conference foe, with Louisville joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports next season. Miami is scheduled to visit Louisville for the first time sometime in 2014.
Hurricanes coach Al Golden, who is making his first bowl appearance since taking over at Miami, was recruiting Sunday night and was unavailable for comment.