By Kevin McGuire
October is here and the Heisman race is starting to really hit mid-season form. As conference games get underway, candidates will begin to rise and fall on a weekly basis. The month of October is when separation in conference standings begins to take form. True contenders push themselves farther from the pretenders in conference play. The same can be said for Heisman Trophy contenders as well. Those who thrive in October will likely be in the final mix when it comes down to the end of the regular season.
Here is a look at one player who could very well be on his way to New York if things continue to roll the way they have.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Louisville is the overwhelming favorite to win the American Athletic Conference this season, and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a huge reason why. The Miami native passed for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns last season while only being picked off eight times. He is an accurate passer who plays inside the pocket very well, as his 160.49 passer rating in 2012 would suggest. Bridgewater’s national profile began to grow last season as Louisville was racing to a Big East championship and a spot in a BCS bowl game and really took off when he threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns in Louisville’s upset win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
This season has seen no slowing down from Bridgewater, with Louisville hoping to run the table and have a shot at playing for a BCS Championship. The cards may be stacked against the Cardinals in the BCS hunt for a variety of reasons when it comes down to it, but Bridgewater is certainly not one of the negative factors. Through four games, Bridgewater has completed 71.8 percent of his passes for 1,214 yards and 14 touchdowns to just one interception (thrown in the season opener). Louisville reached its bye week with a 4-0 record and now moves into conference play with plenty on the line. As long as Bridgewater remains healthy, he should be able to put up very respectable numbers in conference play and remain in the thick of the Heisman hunt.
Bridgewater may be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation but his best bet to become Louisville’s first Heisman Trophy winner in school history will come from putting up huge numbers and seeing other candidates take a stumble. This is partially a case of conference image coming into play. Playing in the American will not carry the same weight as playing in the SEC or Pac 12, though this is no fault of Bridgewater’s. That means Bridgewater may have to put up numbers that are so impressive, they command recognition in the Heisman voting. Bridgewater’s cause would also benefit from other candidates taking a hit along the way while Louisville runs through an undefeated regular season.
This weekend, Bridgewater leads Louisville to Philadelphia to take on Temple. The Owls are in search of their first win of the season. Last season, Bridgewater threw for 324 yards and a career-best five touchdowns (a total he matched in week one this year against Ohio).
Heisman Match-Up of the Week
Georgia Tech at Miami: If there is a running back to keep close tabs on in the Heisman competition, it could very well be Miami running back Duke Johnson. Johnson has now scored a touchdown in eight consecutive games dating back to last season and is among the leading rushers in the ACC after four games with 388 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers may not sound all that impressive for a running back with Heisman potential, but considering the Hurricanes are undefeated and have not needed Johnson for a full game in most of those games, that is something to consider. Johnson’s health can be a concern after getting hit in the head last week at South Florida, but it appears he should be ready to go for a big ACC Coastal Division game against Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech has the best rushing defense in the ACC, so if Johnson can have a big day, it should not be taken lightly.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.