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Bridgewater Aims For Louisville's First Heisman

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Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater should be in the Heisman conversation if the Cardinals compete for a BCS bowl game. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater should be in the Heisman conversation if the Cardinals compete for a BCS bowl game. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Big East Offensive Player of the Year. Conference champion. Sugar Bowl victor over Florida.

What more can Teddy Bridgewater accomplish at Louisville? If his 2012 season is any indication, Bridgewater is ready to make a run at another historic feat: earning Louisville's first Heisman Trophy.

The rising junior quarterback enters the 2013 season as a Heisman contender following a 2012 campaign in which he threw for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns, led the Cardinals to a 10-2 record, a Big East championship and a Sugar Bowl upset of Florida. After a decent debut season in 2011, Bridgewater exploded onto the national scene as a sophomore while spreading the ball out to a deep and balanced receiving corps

Why he can win

To win the Heisman, you have to play for a winner. And Louisville will win in 2013. With a bunch of starters returning and head coach Charlie Strong continuing to build his program, the Cardinals are the favorite to repeat as Big East champs in their last year in the league before bolting for the ACC. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will begin their first seasons in the ACC, leaving Lousiville with little competition for the conference crown. If the Cardinals can advance to another BCS bowl game, they will provide Bridgewater with the publicity and spotlight needed to win the Heisman.

He's a quarterback. Eleven of the last 12 Heisman winners were quarterbacks. Enough said.

Why he can't win

Two of Bridgewater's best security guards — LT Alex Kupper and C Mario Benavides — are gone, leaving two big vacancies on the line. Bridgewater had plenty of time to sit in the pocket and dissect defenses last year, but he won't match those numbers again if the Cardinals can't give him time.

While Bridgewater's success may have surprised some teams in 2012, opponents won't be fooled in 2013. Defenses will focus on limiting Bridgewater's effectiveness and forcing the Cardinals to rely on other offensive players to beat them. That may impact his numbers and put more pressure on him to match last year's success.

Unfortunately for Bridgewater, his team plays a weak schedule. While last year's bowl win over Florida was impressive and they're primed to repeat as conference champs, the Cardinals are lumped in with a watered down Big East. Bridgewater might pile up big numbers, but it won't impress Heisman voters while they watch quarterbacks like Georgia's Aaron Murray, Alabama's AJ McCarron and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel post similar numbers against much stronger competition in the SEC.

Bottom line

All signs point toward Bridgewater being in the Heisman conversation: he's coming off a stellar season, his team could be even better in 2013 and his name is already known in the college football universe. BCS bowl or not, though, the Cardinals' poor strength of schedule will most likely hurt him; only one Big East player has ever won the Heisman — Miami quarterback Gino Torretta ... in 1992.