Sugar Bowl 2013: Teddy Bridgewater Will Prove His Worth vs. SEC Defense

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJanuary 2, 2013

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 29: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a game at High Point Solutions Stadium on November 29, 2012 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Louisville defeated Rutgers 20-17 to win the Big East championship. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Teddy Bridgewater is probably the best quarterback in the country that has yet to really receive that national attention. In the 2013 BCS Sugar Bowl, in a matchup against the Florida Gators, he'll have his first true opportunity to prove himself to a national audience.

Bridgewater has done well the past two seasons against sub-par competition in the Big East, but he has yet to play that real big-boy team to show he has truly arrived.

The sophomore quarterback and his 69 percent completion percentage are good for sixth in the country, and his 3,452 passing yards is second-most in the Big East. He has only thrown seven interceptions on the year and has topped 250 passing yards nine times, including in the last seven straight contests.

Still, he put all of these numbers up against unranked teams, programs you probably never heard of and a handful of schools that are better on the basketball court. Oh, don't get me wrong, he is an exciting player to watch, but this is a game that will really prove how great he actually is.

His performance a month ago against Rutgers for a trip to a BCS bowl was legendary, as he willed his team to victory with a broken wrist and a sprained ankle. And while that feat shouldn't be ignored, it was against another Big East team that didn't beat a ranked opponent all season long.

With that said, Bridgewater should still be considered the best quarterback this Florida defense will face all season. Nope, those aren't my words, that is All-American safety Matt Elam, according to Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel.

"I feel like, hands down, he's the best quarterback we will face this year," Elam said.

In case you aren't familiar with the Gators schedule, this is a team that has faced Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray and EJ Manuel. Those are all quarterbacks that will eventually have a future at the next level. They also faced some guy named Johnny Manziel, who happened to become the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.

But who is going to argue with Elam? Not me. This is somebody who hits his own teammates when he doesn't agree with their celebration. He calls the shots on that ridiculous Florida defense and nobody is foolish enough to second guess what he has to say.

However, all of those quarterbacks mentioned have proved themselves at some point in their career. Bridgewater has had his moments in his first two years, but he has never seen a defense like Florida and has never been on a stage like this one.

Usually the Cardinals games are on a Thursday night when there are other interesting things to pay attention to. Or they take place on a Saturday when there are bigger and better things to watch. Tonight's game is the only game on television and is on one of the biggest stages you can ask for at the collegiate level.

No pressure or anything.

Bridgewater is an interesting player, who throws with a glove on his throwing hand, but somehow is able to complete a high percentage of his passes. He is a dual-threat quarterback, but would much rather stand in the pocket and destroy those stereotypes with each completed pass. He has the heart and the drive to succeed at the highest level, which makes him a coach’s dream with his work ethic.

The problem is he has yet to have that marquee game that has without question put him on the map. He is a popular player among folks that watch college football religiously, but he hasn't entered the category as one of the elite quarterbacks in the country.

Louisville doesn't have to pull off the upset against Florida to show that he has arrived. He just has to play well and actually live up to exceptions the way Jordan Lynch did not last night against the Florida State Seminoles.

If Bridgewater plays well, he will instantly enter the Heisman conversation for 2013 and will be thrown across draft boards everywhere for the next level. A poor performance will bring out the naysayers and question marks about the young quarterback's actual ability.

Whatever happens in tonight's showdown, we will learn a lot about the Cardinals quarterback and what could be in store for his future.