The topic was discussed at length heading into the season, and Louisville has done nothing to change the conversation. The 2013 Teddy Bridgewater-led Cardinals are really, really good, but the potential of this team will likely remain unknown until a game that isn’t even decided yet.
On Saturday, the Cardinals took to the road for the second time this season and made quick work of Temple. Louisville jumped out to a 24-0 first-half lead behind the near perfect play of its star quarterback, continuing a couple of trends that have been on display this season.
Teddy Bridgewater is on fire, and the team is just destroying everything in its path in the first 30 minutes. These numbers, per Eric Crawford of WDRB-TV in Louisville, would be impressive if the team was playing against air (which is basically what it is doing at this point):
#Louisville has now outscored its five (hapless) opponents 127-3 in the first half, including 76-0 in second quarter.— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) October 5, 2013
Louisville put it in cruise control in the second half, staying unbeaten to the final score of 30-7—the lone Temple score coming in the final minute of the game when it was long over.
It wasn’t dazzling, but it didn’t need to be. Bridgewater kept his Heisman campaign moving right along, throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns on the road.
Through five games this season, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents 222-34. A stat that is an extension of their first-half dominance above.
None of this, of course, comes as a surprise. The schedule didn’t appear to have much bite on paper, and the team’s toughest game coming into the season—an early December visit to Cincinnati—doesn’t present the same sort of obstacle it was originally thought to be.
That’s not to say that Louisville will cruise to an unbeaten season, and the next few weeks could prove to be the difference. The Cardinals will welcome Rutgers to town on Thursday and UCF will visit Papa John's Cardinal Stadium the following Friday.
Both teams have had moments. Rutgers just barely lost to high-powered (and potential BCS buster) Fresno State in the opening weekend and beat Arkansas a few weeks later.
Central Florida beat Penn State on the road and put forth a great performance against South Carolina in Week 6. The Knights weren’t able to hang on after having a lead in the third quarter, but it was a solid showing regardless.
If Louisville wants to finish unbeaten, it will have to beat both of these teams. And while this will serve as a dramatic step-up in competition, the term here is relative.
Assuming Teddy Bridgewater stays healthy, the team should cruise through the rest of its schedule. It may drop one game along the way—perhaps in the next few weeks—but the measuring stick for just how good the Cardinals are will not come until their bowl game.
And this presents another interesting scenario: Can Louisville make the BCS National Championship?
Certainly, but for this to be possible the Cardinals need to root for chaos around the country and, of course, take care of business.
One-loss teams in major conferences—particularly the Pac-12 and SEC—will still likely get the nod over Louisville when it comes to getting into the ultimate showcase. Chaos could very well come, but an unbeaten season probably won’t be enough.
Can Louisville make the BCS National Championship?
But don’t let that disclaimer fool you. This Louisville team is much more than its star quarterback, although his presence gives it a chance against just about anyone. Just ask the Florida Gators from this past Sugar Bowl.
The defense has played exceptionally well, while the running backs have averaged more than five yards per carry on the season. And yes, Teddy Bridgewater is the best player in the nation. That doesn't hurt.
In all likelihood, Louisville will play its way into a BCS Bowl, and it will take on an opponent superior to any it will play all year. The Cardinals will likely be doubted, with many choosing to site the schedule as ammunition, forgetting about their performance back in January.
Discounting the Cardinals because of their schedule is foolish and premature, but that won’t stop many from doing it anyway.
Is the schedule a joke? Yeah, it pretty much is.
Should you doubt this team? Do so at your own risk, even if you have to wait a few months to find out if your doubts are warranted.