Bridgewater's Heisman campaign begins

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been one of the most unheralded, unnoticed players all season.

That changed Wednesday night.

Beating the No. 3 team in the nation -- on national television -- will do that. And so it begins -- Bridgewater is not just a Heisman candidate, but one of the Heisman front-runners heading into 2013.

"He is one of the best quarterbacks. He's one of the best players in the country," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said after the Cardinals beat Florida 33-23 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. "If you look out there on that field tonight, you look at what Florida has, you look at what we have, he's the best, probably. Not probably, he was the best player on the field."

We have seen Bridgewater carve up defenses this season. But many dismissed his performances because they came against Big East competition. Some wondered who exactly did he beat this year? There is a definitive answer now.

The No. 5 defense in the nation, that's who.

Bridgewater finished 20-of-32 for 266 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He threw passes into tight seams. He threw passes with accuracy, with zip -- showing everybody he will be playing on Sundays. Luckily for Louisville, Bridgewater has at least one more season left with the Cardinals. And that one could turn into a huge one, considering how much of a bump he is going to get off his game.

"I wouldn't be in this situation right now and this predicament without my teammates," Bridgewater said after the game. "Right now I'm just enjoying this moment. The Heisman campaign may start, but right now I'm just enjoying this moment."

There are some who may dismiss his candidacy simply because he plays against the Big East. In response, I will tell you that did not stop people from voting for Larry Fitzgerald (runner-up, 2003). While the Big East will be a vastly different league in 2013 than it was in 2003, Bridgewater showed Wednesday night that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

It just took a big game against a big team on a big stage to get everybody else to notice.

"I've been saying it all year: He's one of the best quarterbacks and best player in the nation," Louisville safety Calvin Pryor said. "They look at Louisville, don't give us any credit, but he's one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. I think he deserves that."