After an impressive 2012, Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville are poised for bigger and better things -- and a championship in their final year in their old conference.
The Cardinals had a pair of slip-ups in an otherwise flawless season: a big ol' loss to Syracuse, and a triple-overtime defeat at the hands of a UConn team that went 5-7. They still managed a Big East championship and a trip to a BCS Bowl -- they made the most of it, handling a Florida squad ranked No. 3 at the time in the Sugar Bowl -- but the two losses kept them from achieving bigger things.
They bring back more players than any other team in the AAC, and with a few not-so-difficult non-conference games, Louisville has a pretty solid chance of going undefeated -- and Bridgewater could be a Heisman candidate. Here's a look at the Cardinals' schedule.
2013 Louisville schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
Let's briefly discuss how good Bridgewater is: as a sophomore in 2012, he completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns against eight picks. As a sophomore. AAC defenses won't get significantly better, but Bridgewater will be a year older, smarter and he won't be dealing with a broken hand like he was at the end of last year. (It was the non-throwing hand, don't worry.)
So who can stop Charlie Strong's squad? Nobody immediately leaps out. I mean, the Cardinals play as many teams ranked below 100 in Football Outsiders' F/+ projections as they do in the top 50. Of the two teams that beat them last year, Syracuse is off the schedule, and UConn is, well, UConn.
The two games that seem to pose the biggest threat are featured Thursday night games: the first comes Oct. 10 against Rutgers, after Teddy Bridgewater needed to come off the bench in a comeback victory against the Scarlet Knights last season.
But the most intriguing game of the year might be Louisville's last: Cincinnati returns a bunch of starters from a team that pushed Louisville to overtime, and as such, it poses a serious threat. The Cardinals will head to Cincinnati on a Thursday night in the last week of the regular season, meaning the matchup could very easily end up as a de facto conference title game.