As a loyal Heisman voter, I try to get an actual look at the half-dozen or so players that by mid-season have turned into serious candidates for the award. You used to be able to find a couple of those players by monitoring Big Ten games on Saturday, but that’s not often the case these days.
It’s easy to find the Heisman contenders from the SEC, since those games are front and center, but you have to sort through 10 cable outlets to find some other teams.
I entered last season looking at the Heisman as a two-man race:
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, the 2012 winner, and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. As much as I loved Manziel as a competitor and a character, I was hoping Bridgewater would wind up on the top of my ballot.
Teddy was coming from a non-power conference – formerly the Big East, now the American Athletic Conference – and I liked the idea that a player not from a historically glamorous program had a chance to win the Heisman.
There were a couple of other reasons to favor Bridgewater:
One, I greatly enjoyed watching Teddy and the Cardinals embarrass Florida 33-23 (after leading 33-10) in the Sugar Bowl during the 2012-13 bowl season.
Two, if Bridgewater had a Heisman-worthy season, that meant more accolades for coach Charlie Strong, and it was always fun for a Star Tribune columnist to remind the Gophers that they hired Tim Brewster as head coach over Strong in January 2007.
There was an opportunity to reaffirm this very favorable opinion of Bridgewater last Oct. 10, a Thursday night with the Cardinals at home on a national telecast vs. Rutgers. I caught a glimpse of the first half, then sat down to watch Teddy light up Rutgers’ porous defense in the second half.
It didn’t happen.
The final was 21-10 for Louisville. Bridgewater’s raw numbers were fine – 21 for 31, 310 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a lofty college passing rating of 166.6 – but there was nothing dynamic about Teddy in a second half that was too close for comfort.
I was also a bit stunned over Teddy’s lack of athletic ability. It had not sunk into me previously, not in the Sugar Bowl for sure, that Bridgewater was … well, slow.
Teddy fell from the top of my Heisman ballot that night. Eight days later, the Cardinals were at home with Central Florida. Again, Bridgewater’s numbers were outstanding, but Central Florida was a 38-29 winner and I came away preferring Blake Bortles as a quarterback.
Small sample size? Certainly.
What else is there for a civilian to go by with a Louisville quarterback, when you’re stuck here on the western edge of the fifth best football conference in the country, the mighty Big Ten?
It’s super-duper that Rick Spielman and the Vikings jumped forward eight places to the last pick in Thursday’s first round to take Bridgewater as their developmental quarterback.
It’s also super-duper if Vikings fans choose to believe the rhetoric about how fabulous Bridgewater looked in a private workout once he put a glove back on his throwing hand, and the tremendous potential our offensive sage, Norv Turner, sees in Teddy.
Yeah, it’s super-duper, but once Bortles and then Manziel were out of the picture, the Vikings could have taken Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger or even Tom Savage, and the Purple Faithful could have been convinced to get lathered up with as much optimism as they are this morning for Teddy.
Bridgewater’s completion numbers and total yardage in three years at Louisville were outstanding. He’s also much slower, not as sturdy physically, has smaller meat hooks and played inferior college competition to that of the Vikings’ previous first-round quarterback, a lad named Christian Ponder out of Florida State in 2011.
For now, Teddy is a suspect as a “franchise quarterback,’’ as was Ponder.
(Note: I voted for Manziel for the Heisman again. Teddy did not make my three-player ballot).