It's a beautiful city and his hometown, but Teddy Bridgewater and his Louisville Cardinals teammates may want to tread lightly the next time they're in Miami.
Bridgewater and the Cardinals laid a historic 72-0 smackdown on Miami-based Florida International on Saturday, gashing through the Golden Panthers defense for easy scores and suffocating their offensive flow. Florida International gained 30 yards the entire game, an astounding feat considering a good deal of the second half saw Louisville's first-teamers chillin' out, maxin' and relaxin' all cool.
Bridgewater was chief among those players Charlie Strong got the hell out of Dodge—he threw his last pass with a few minutes left in the third quarter.
But the Heisman candidate made the most of his time on the Papa John's Cardinal Stadium field. He completed 17 of 22 passes, throwing for 224 yards and four touchdowns. He connected with DeVante Parker on a pair of short scores that saw the Cardinals wide receiver beautifully keep his feet in bounds on the sideline.
In essence, it was a near-perfect day in a season full of them for Bridgewater.
Likely to be the top quarterback taken in next May's NFL draft, the junior signal-caller has done nothing to quell that expectation this season. He's tossed 14 touchdowns against one interception, thrown for a little more than 300 yards per game and looked every bit the brilliant prospect he was billed coming out of high school.
Already having led the Cardinals to a BCS bowl win (last season's Sugar Bowl) and locked himself into an eight-figure NFL contract, there frankly isn't much left for Bridgewater at the collegiate level. A national championship would be nice, but it's a pipe dream; the Cardinals' strength of schedule makes it a virtual certainty they'd be passed over for a one-loss SEC team even if undefeated.
No, what remains for Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville is the possibility he'll be hoisting that little bronze man giving the stiff arm. He was among the Heisman favorites coming into the season, and those gaudy statistics have done nothing to take that standing away.
That said, Bridgewater may have to perform even better going forward if he hopes to actually win the sport's most prestigious individual honor.
Coming into Week 4, Bridgewater had lost a little ground in the Heisman chase. Bovada, which updates its Heisman odds after every week's games have been played, had him at 13-2 odds, behind Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. Bridgewater was also tied with Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.
The latest Heisman Pundit poll has Bridgewater at an even greater disadvantage. Manziel and Mariota are dominating the latest straw poll, more than tripling the results of any other player. McCarron ties with Clemson's Tajh Boyd this time around, leaving Bridgewater in fifth place without a first-place vote to his name.
Spoiler: A quarterback is winning the Heisman this year.
At this point in the season, I have a hard time seeing anyone taking Mariota down. He's had some accuracy issues—his completion percentage is down to 59.8 percent in 2013 versus 68.5 percent last year—but those are mostly sample-related and are overshadowed by his greatness elsewhere.
A threat to run or pass on every possession, Mariota has accounted for 11 total touchdowns and 1,150 total yards. He's been a robotic producer of huge plays, gashing overwhelmed defenses with ease. Just a redshirt sophomore, Mariota may be playing his way into top-five-pick contention. With trips to Washington and Stanford along with a home tilt against UCLA, Mariota has a bunch of opportunities for "Heisman moments."
Bridgewater doesn't. Games like Saturday are a microcosm of why Bridgewater's Heisman candidacy has holes and why it's tough to take Louisville seriously as one of the 10 best teams in the nation.
The Cardinals don't play anybody.
In the micro sense, Bridgewater's excellence Saturday is inconsequential. He performed as he should have against a team that only made the trip for a check. Plenty of Heisman candidates and non-Heisman candidates have huge games against cupcakes that artificially enhance their overall statistics. Stat-padding is near-endemic in college football. Always has been.
Those four touchdowns will look the same on a stat sheet as ones against a great team. It's impossible for Heisman voters to watch every game; they look at a stat sheet and rely on a combination of statistics, word of mouth and the limited action they saw from a certain player. There's a reason regional Heisman voting maps are so splintered. When in doubt, take what you know.
|October 5||at Temple|
|October 26||at South Florida|
|November 8||at Connecticut|
|December 5||at Cincinnati|
The problem, though, is that Bridgewater's season is going to be filled with forgettable four-touchdown outings. Louisville, at the moment, plays exactly zero games against ranked teams. Houston, Cincinnati and UCF are the high-water marks on the Cardinals' schedule. I like what I've seen from UCF this season, but Louisville will be at least two-touchdown favorites when the two teams play.
Louisville's schedule would be like MLB scheduling the Atlanta Braves to play the Miami Marlins day after day after day, sprinkling in a series against the, say, Arizona Diamondbacks every once in a while.
Are we really going to put ourselves through the indignity of pretending to care about these games? Of course not. They'll be nationally televised and watched with the enthusiasm of someone sitting through Low Winter Sun to get an early Breaking Bad preview. Louisville, on the basis of its talent and incredibly weak schedule, should go undefeated.
None of this is Bridgewater's fault, mind you. He's not the one in charge of scheduling the games or throwing a stick of dynamite to the conference layout—the two things that leave the Cardinals with such a forgettable slate of games.
But the trickle-down effect alters Bridgewater's Heisman candidacy. While most everyone can recognize his individual excellence, Bridgewater's stats as a whole will mostly be seen as empty. He's a great player doing what great players do against bad teams.
For him to have a chance, he has to be near-perfect. Go through the season with one or two interceptions. Throw for 4,200 yards (350 yards per game). Lead an all-out assault that finishes with the Cardinals scoring well more than 40 points per game and win each of their games by at least two scores.
Who will win the 2014 Heisman Trophy?
There is no room for error here. A mediocre game against one of the American Athletic Conference teams is looked at far differently than one against LSU, UCLA or whatever other topflight program you want to use.
Every week, Teddy Bridgewater has to be Teddy Bridgewater, future possible No. 1 overall draft pick.
Saturday was proof positive that Bridgewater won't play down to his competition. Four down. Eight to go.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: