Heisman watch: Teddy Bridgewater
Louisville enter their only season in the new American Athletic Conference, formerly the Big East, with a top Heisman candidate and potential first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft under center. Teddy Bridgewater turned in an outstanding effort in his sophomore season, throwing for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns. Will a relatively soft schedule, experienced receiving corp, and a big arm be enough to catapult Bridgewater into serious Heisman contention?
The only blemishes on Teddy Bridgewater's 2012 season were a pair of back-to-back upset losses at the hands of Syracuse and Connecticut. Despite throwing for 755 yards and five touchdowns in those November games, Bridgewater's Heisman candidacy took a hit. Louisville still captured a conference title in the Big East's final run, and Bridgewater's skill and toughness were on display in the Cardinals' season finale versus Rutgers, and again in a 33-23 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
Head coach Charlie Strong returns with last year's team almost entirely intact, which bodes well for Bridgewater to capture the attention of voters in his junior season. Bridgewater extinguished plans for Louisville to run a Heisman campaign behind him, which may ultimately prove to be the greatest Heisman campaign out there. Save for national exposure, everything is in place for Bridgewater to have another huge year.
Why Teddy Bridgewater will win the Heisman in 2013
Louisville is ACC-bound in 2014, and they appear to be ready to walk all over everyone not named Rutgers and Cincinnati in 2013. Bridgewater will have a plethora of impact receivers at his disposal, including returnees Damian Copeland (50 rec, 628 yards, 2 TD in 2012), DeVante Parker (40 rec 744 yards, 10 TD), and Eli Rogers (46 rec, 505 yards, 4 TD). Matt Milton, a junior who transferred from Tennessee, also figures to play a role in offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's plans. Bridgewater's ability to navigate the pocket, combined with an abundance of targets, should allow him to approach 4,000 passing yards.
An experienced roster, and one of the nation's top quarterbacks, could propel Louisville to an undefeated season. Given the absence of any big name opponents, it may take a run of perfection for Bridgewater to enter the Heisman finalist discussion. Charlie Strong's crew may very well run the table in 2013.
Why Teddy Bridgewater will not win the Heisman in 2013
The ease of schedule that the AAC has afforded the Cardinals leaves literally no room for error in Bridgewater's bid for a Heisman. One upset loss or short run of bad luck could be enough to derail the 20-year old's chance at capturing the trophy.
Anyone who has watched Bridgewater play will tell you how great he is at moving around the pocket. As far as mobility goes, that's about it for Bridgewater. He's not a great runner. The problem here is that many of his peers also in the Heisman discussion are quarterbacks of the mobile variety, namely Johnny Manziel, Tajh Boyd, Braxton Miller, and Marcus Mariota. Rushing yards and TDs on the ground, in addition to a strong passing game, will always garner loads of attention. For Bridgewater, gaudy passing yard and touchdown totals may be what's required for him to pose a serious threat to unseating the incumbent, Manziel.
Exposure in the AAC will be at a premium. The nation's interest in the new conference could very well be tied to how well Bridgewater plays.
Teddy Bridgewater is primed for a great 2013 season. Unless he falls down the charts like former USC QB Matt Barkley, or ex-Arkansas signal caller Tyler Wilson, Bridgewater could very well be a top-2 pick come May. As history suggests, a skillset that projects as NFL-ready matters little when it comes to Heisman voting. Bridgewater will have to better his fantastic breakout season, and he'll need some narrative to lean in his favor in order for voters to peg him for New York.
The junior quarterback has requested that the focus remains fixed on Louisville as a team, but nobody's being fooled here. Bridgewater is the story heading into the season. How the story plays out, and its impact on Teddy Bridgewater's Heisman candidacy, depends on how close he comes to touching his own towering ceiling.