Louisville's trip to the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville this season is almost a reverse image of their trip to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando last season.
Last season, the Cardinals started 9-1 and faded down the stretch, losing the last three games of the season including a 29-9 thumping by LSU in the Citrus Bowl.
This season, the Cardinals started 4-4 before recovering to win four-straight games heading into a Dec. 30 showdown with Mississippi State in Jacksonville, Fla. The Cardinals may be playing their best football of the season right now.
"Oh, I definitely think so," safety Chucky Williams said. "We are playing much better on defense and the offense has always been there."
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino called the season-ending win over Kentucky the team's best performance of the season. The Cardinals' high-powered offense rolled to 44 points and didn't have to punt while the defense held Kentucky in check, limiting the rival Wildcats to 17 points.
For the bowl, Petrino knows his Top 5 Offense led by Heisman winner Lamar Jackson will be tested against Mississippi State's Top 10 Defense. The other side of the ball is interesting, too, with Louisville's first-year defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon coming to the Cardinals from Mississippi State.
"I think Coach Sirmon will understand their players and their talents and what they do, and then also Mississippi State will understand what (Sirmon's) package is, and what he did there," Petrino said. "But these games are about the players."
That's good for the Bulldogs, because MSU is still trying to figure out its coaching staff. New coach Joe Moorman won't coach the bowl.
Mississippi State interim coach Greg Knox, who has been Mississippi State's running backs coach since 2009, has not been hired at Florida yet. He was tabbed to be the Interim Coach for the bowl game, and he picked QB coach Brett Elliott to call offensive plays and safeties coach Ron English to run the defense.
"This is a great opportunity for our team to go after its ninth win of the year," Knox said. "We're excited about playing an opponent the caliber of Louisville."