Over in Louisville, Ky., there is a college football team--the Louisville Cardinals--that's undefeated and hovering just outside the coveted top 8 in the BCS rankings at No. 9.
Under center for Louisville is a sophomore quarterback named Teddy Bridgewater, who is hovering just outside the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Maybe it's time we let him in.
In four straight games, Bridgewater has put up some eye-opening numbers that should at least get his name kicked around a little bit when talking about the most prestigious award in college football.
The Case for Bridgewater for the Heisman
On Oct. 13 against Pittsburgh--the same Pitt team that nearly knocked off Notre Dame--Bridgewater jump-started a sluggish Cardinals team after halftime, connecting with DeVante Parker for a 75-yard touchdown strike on the first play of the third quarter and propelling Louisville to a 45-35 victory in its Big East opener. Bridgewater finished the game completing 17 of 26 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown--nearly 100 yards more than Pitt normally allows in a game.
He was both surgical and clutch the following week against South Florida in a 27-25 Louisville win, completing 21 of 25 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 2 minutes left to play. Against the Bulls, Bridgewater also scampered for 74 yards, leading the team in rushing by a long shot.
Then came a rivalry game against the Cincinnati Bearcats on national television. Bridgewater dealt with that pressure by throwing for 416 yards and two scores and bringing the Keg of Nails back to Louisville after a four-year stay in Cincy. The Cardinals prevailed 34-31 in overtime.
Most recently, as Louisville hammered Temple by a score of 45-17, Bridgewater passed for 324 yards and five touchdowns--and didn't play in the fourth quarter because of the blowout score.
So far in 2012, Bridgewater has completed over 70 percent of his passes for 2,434 yards and 18 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
Bridgewater's Obstacles to the Heisman
There are, of course, two big arguments against Bridgewater's inclusion in the Heisman Trophy conversation: sophomores historically don't win the award, and Louisville hasn't played anyone.
Until Tim Tebow broke the sophomore barrier in 2007--and Sam Bradford (2008) and Mark Ingram (2009) followed suit in consecutive years--no underclassman had ever won the Heisman. The odds are overwhelming that this year's award will go to a junior or senior.
The bigger issue is likely that Louisville has played a grand total of two teams with winning records this year -- North Carolina (6-3) and Cincinnati (6-2). Bridgewater did quite well in those games--he went 23 of 28 for 279 yards and three touchdowns against the Tar Heels--but it's hard to hold him up to the likes of Collin Klein or A.J. McCarron or even Geno Smith (remember him?) when his body of work comes against teams like Kentucky (1-9), Missouri State (3-7 in the FCS), Florida International (2-8), Southern Miss (0-9), Pittsburgh (4-5), South Florida (3-6), and Temple (3-5).
Bridgewater for the 2013 Heisman Trophy?
The Cardinals play at Syracuse (4-5) and then host Connecticut (3-6) before playing at No. 24 Rutgers (7-1) in a game that will likely decide the Big East champion.
Bridgewater may not generate any serious Heisman Trophy buzz this season, given his age and Louisville's weak schedule, but if he plays well in his final three regular season games and in his bowl game, he just might find himself entering the 2013 season on a Heisman watch list or two.