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Louisville Cardinals: Teddy Bridgewater Continues Rise to the Top of NFL Draft Class

Heisman Trophy and BCS Championship Seem Less Likely After Win Against Rutgers

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Louisville football Cardinals probably won't even get the shot to finished ranked No. 1 overall in the country like their basketball brethren did earlier this year. But Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks like he's on track to get the most important No. 1 overall player ranking in all of college football for those players who aspire to cash in on their amateur status -- the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL draft.

What Makes Bridgewater 'Teddy Ballgame'

The nickname "Teddy Ballgame" rings true for Bridgewater because of how much of a consummate tactician he is in running his offense and commanding the field. His blend of athletic ability and presence of mind separate him from all other pro-style offense QBs in the college game. The most recent equivalent of Bridgewater from a pro scouting equivalent is Andrew Luck, who wasted no time in converting his success at Stanford into a No. 1 overall draft pick and instant NFL stardom.

Bridgewater may even better than Luck coming out of college in a couple ways. Throwing on the run when flushed out of the pocket is a definite strength of Bridgewater. His pinpoint accuracy and deft touch is as good as any college QB who has matriculated to the NFL in recent memory. His uncanny deep ball is a masterful fusion of effortless power at almost warp speed acceleration combined with instantaneous release.

These physical attributes together with an unparalleled understanding of command on offense elevate him in the same way the original Teddy Ballgame -- Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox -- ascended far above his class for a half a century and then some to the point that the rest of the competition were mere mortals by comparison.

Heisman Trophy Outsider?

So if Bridgewater is really the second coming of the next big thing, surely he is a cinch for the coveted Heisman Trophy? Unfortunately, for Bridgewater, the weak strength of schedule for Louisville this year will not only dim the chance of the Cardinals to ascend to a shot at a BCS title game, but it will also decrease Bridgewater's chance to claim the Heisman.

With the success of team so closely intertwined with Heisman voting, Bridgewater will force himself into the conversation at year's end if he can guide Louisville to an undefeated season. Still, his no-loss season won't carry the same weight as a one-loss season for a QB on a big conference team that muscles its way into a BCS bowl or title game based on competition and compensation.

Unfair or not, Bridgewater can lead Louisville to a perfect season with style points galore and still fall well short of both the Heisman and a BCS bowl just because of the way the cards fell in the school's last year in the former Big East conference.

Struggle Against Rutgers

Rutgers played tough against Louisville in front of a national audience. A 4-1 team coming into Louisville to face Bridgewater and company, Rutgers' only loss was an overtime one against a ranked team in Fresno State.

Rutgers forced critical turnovers against Louisville, including a late first-half end-zone bomb interception of Bridgewater and a key fourth-quarter Bridgewater fumble inside the Rutgers' 10-yard line on a blindside blitz. Both turnovers kept at least 10 more Louisville points off the board.

Even though Louisville won, the defeat of Rutgers in a close game will fall well short of the shock and awe needed by the Cardinals to separate themselves from American Athletic Conference competition, even though all the attributes of just how good Louisville is on both sides of the ball were on display in the 24-10 win.

Never mind that Bridgewater didn't have his top target DeVante Parker all game or his next best option in Kai De La Cruz for all of the second half due to injuries. (And, yes, Bridgewater still did manage to throw for 310 yards and two TDs). All that will be remembered when it comes to Heisman hype and the BCS squeeze is that Louisville only beat a halfway decent Rutgers team by a couple touchdowns.

Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for more than five years. He posts his NFL draft predictions each year at footballnostradamus.com. Hoff is an avid follower of University of Louisville football and basketball and a longtime resident of the Greater Louisville area.

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