Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater continued his march toward the Heisman trophy by leading the Cardinals over rival Kentucky, 27-13, on Saturday.
Bridgewater started the contest slow, leading Louisville to only a 10-3 lead at halftime. As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pointed out, it was a bad first-half showing, but one Bridgewater could easily recover from:
This is the worst I've seen Teddy Bridgewater look, but please let's not panic. He's still an elite QB prospect.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 14, 2013
And recover Bridgewater did, as Louisville went on to score 17 second-half points to win. Bridgewater's numbers were fantastic. He threw for 250 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions while completing 57 percent of his passes.
Kentucky was simply the latest in a line of magnificent performances for Bridgewater, who now is easily sitting atop the Heisman rankings with 1,002 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception, all while completing over 60 percent of his passes.
Other serious contenders for the Heisman trophy include Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston. Ohio State's Braxton Miller has fallen behind in the competition thanks to injury.
Winston has been impressive for Florida State, throwing for over 300 yards and four scores through one game, but he is similar to Bridgewater in that he won't see stiff competition for most of the year. The same goes for Mariota, who has put up flashy statistics against weaker squads.
Perhaps the biggest threat to Bridgewater's Heisman is Boyd, who has posted his 439 yards and three touchdowns—in part against Georgia—and will have to deal with the SEC the rest of the way.
Don't forget Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who won the prize last year. The problem for Manziel is simple—he'll face a brutal schedule in the SEC when compared to Bridgewater.
There are a few running backs who could sneak into the conversation, but since 2000, only two have won the trophy; meanwhile, 11 quarterbacks have taken the prize.
Is Teddy Bridgewater the front-runner for the Heisman?
For Bridgewater, the coast is clear regarding the Heisman, barring a colossal drop-off or injury. While 250 yards and one score against Kentucky isn't as sexy as the 355 yards and five scores against Ohio or 397 yards and four scores against Eastern Kentucky, it's a gritty win that voters will circle when the time comes.
The overwhelming statistics are impressive, but Louisville needs to run the table against an easy schedule for Bridgewater to win the Heisman. While the schedule will provide for jaw-dropping statistics, marquee victories against tough opposition weigh heavily on the minds of voters as well.
That's where Bridgewater's performance against Kentucky comes into play.
Bridgewater held tough in the first half against a stellar Kentucky pass rush and battled through an ankle issue to deliver passes like this one, as documented by ESPN:
With plays like that on his resume and excellent statistics, Bridgewater is in the driver's seat for the prestigious Heisman award.
None of this should come as a shock after a sophomore campaign that saw him throw for over 3,700 yards and 27 scores and just eight interceptions. The scary part? Bridgewater will surpass those numbers as a junior—and he's an improved player.
Much will change in the coming weeks, but as long as Bridgewater continues doing what he does best, which is excelling as the top quarterback in the nation, then it's going to be impossible to supplant him at the top of the list with such an easy schedule in front of him.
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