Jan 2, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) scrambles out of the pocket under pressure from Florida Gators defensive lineman Dominique Easley (2) during the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Top 25: No. 3 Teddy Bridgewater

Only 76 players in the history of college football have earned the designation of Heisman Trophy winners. First awarded in 1935, the Heisman Trophy is considered the sport’s pinnacle of individual achievement.

SaturdayBlitz.com is tracking the race to the 78th Heisman Trophy throughout the 2013 college football season via the Heisman Top 25. Every week throughout the season, we are tracking the progress of the contenders, both their on-field impact and media presence.

No player’s stock improved more during the bowl season than Teddy Bridgewater’s. The second-year Louisville Cardinals quarterback was outstanding throughout the 2012 campaign, but really captured the nation’s attention with his performance in the Cardinals’ surprise 33-23 win over the Florida Gators in January’s Sugar Bowl.

Bridgewater had been picking apart opposing defenses in similar fashion all season, but doing so against what was one of the SEC’s best proved just how good he is at captaining an offense.

His evolution in just two years is one of the more fascinating stories in college football. Bridgewater came to Louisville out of Miami, celebrated for his dual-threat abilities. He was an outstanding rusher at Northwestern High School, and an easy assumption was he would operate in a similar fashion at UL.

An offensive coordinator change midway through Bridgewater’s true freshman campaign flipped the script, however. Shawn Watson replaced Mark Sanford, and the improvement in Bridgewater’s game was almost instantaneous. He led the Cardinals to a share of the Big East Conference championship, playing a much more traditional, drop-back style.

That carried over into Louisville’s 11-win 2012 season. The Cardinals won a share of the conference crown once again, but this time returned to its first BCS bowl since the 2006 campaign.

The speed that Bridgewater exhibited in high school was put on display when necessary, but otherwise, he looked like a Peyton Manning who stands tall in the pocket and makes the right reads around the field.

How Teddy Bridgewater Wins The Heisman

Bridgewater declined a Heisman campaign from the Louisville athletic department last month. CBS Sports’ Heisman Pundit wrote the eschewing a media blitz would somehow hinder Bridgewater’s candidacy. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

By dismissing the traditional campaign, Bridgewater made national headlines. He is blazing his own unique trail, which in and of itself becomes a campaign. The national attention that Bridgewater commanded with his decision showed him to be a selfless leader, which is exactly what most offenses want from a quarterback.

Bridgewater cites a national championship as his primary motivation in 2013, and indeed, UL moving itself into that discussion is key for the quarterback’s Heisman chances. The Cardinals are clear front runners in the first season of the American Athletic Conference. UL should be favorites in all 12 of its games, and Bridgewater delivering it to a perfect regular season would certainly land him in the forefront of the Heisman conversation.

Statistical Overview

• 287-419 passing (68.5 percent); 3817 yards

• 27 passing touchdowns

• 74 carries; 26 yards; 1 touchdown

Compared To Past Heisman Winners

  • Matt Leinart, 2004: USC’s star quarterback was coming off a great campaign that included a BCS bowl victory in 2004, much like Bridgewater is this year. Leinart made NFL scouts salivate with his Pro Set play, completing 269 passes for 3322 yards and 33 touchdowns in 12 games. He also scored three touchdowns.
  • Vinny Testaverde, 1986: The U’s first Heisman winner set a benchmark for Hurricane quarterbacks that, frankly, none have met. Bridgewater may have passed on Miami, but he can still represent South Beach in a similar fashion as Testaverde by putting forth a similar season.

    Testaverde led the ’86 Hurricanes into the de facto national championship game with 26 passing touchdowns, in the process becoming a coveted NFL prospect as Bridgewater will this fall. Testaverde also wasn’t a traditional rusher in any definition, but scored three times on the ground. Bridgewater can duplicate that feat, and then some.

Highlights

Tags: Heisman Top 25 Heisman Trophy Louisville Cardinals

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