Bridgewater Leads The Cards

Freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater leads a talented group of Louisville Cardinals that exceeded expectations this season.

-- QB Teddy Bridgewater is just a freshman, but he's played beyond his years in leading the Cardinals to the postseason.

"It's amazing to watch how Teddy Bridgewater has gotten better and better and better each week," coach Charlie Strong said. "I don't know if I've ever been around a player who's been so poised as Teddy. He knows he's nowhere near where he should be, and he just wants to go be a really outstanding football player."

-- K Chris Philpott hasn't always been great, missing five of his 16 field-goal attempts this season. However, he has a strong leg, and he has made both of his attempts from beyond 50 yards. He could be the difference-maker if the offense reverts back to its early-season struggles in the red zone.

-- LB Dexter Heyman is the most disruptive player on the defense, leading Louisville in tackles, tackles for loss and interceptions. He also has four sacks. When he's at his best, he seems to be everywhere on the field, and as one of the few senior starters, he's had a big role in getting the Cardinals this far.

-- WR DeVante Parker is the Louisville version of former NFL receiver Cris Carter; he only catches touchdowns. Six of his 14 receptions have resulted in scores, and the freshman has the athleticism to make plays as long as Teddy Bridgewater throws it within his range.

Scouting the running game:
This has been a problem for the Cardinals all season. Louisville has a lot of options -- Victor Anderson, Dominique Brown and Jeremy Wright -- but none of them has stepped forward to emerge as a dominant runner. Anderson will be motivated to end his Cardinals career on a high note, and freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater can also move the chains with his legs.

Scouting the passing game: By the numbers, this isn't a great passing offense, but the Cardinals have looked a lot better with Bridgewater under center, and his improvement has been remarkable. He looks very comfortable in the pocket and has already emerged as a team leader, and with targets like DeVante Parker, Michaelee Harris, Eli Rogers and Josh Chichester, he has a lot of options to turn to here.

Scouting the run defense: Louisville has one of the best run defenses in the country, and it's very adept at getting into the backfield. It enters the postseason having held its last two opponents under rushing 100 yards, including limiting UConn's Lyle McCombs, the Big East's leading rusher, to 33 yards on the ground.

Scouting the pass defense: The Cardinals are solid on pass defense, though they don't force a ton of turnovers (nine interceptions in 12 games). Louisville had an issue in the first half of the season in giving up big plays, but as the secondary has gotten more experienced and more comfortable, those catastrophic mistakes have become a lot more rare.

Scouting the special teams: Louisville has a lot of weapons it can toss out on kick returns. Wright has gotten the most work, but Senorise Perry had the critical return in the regular-season finale, and Adrian Bushell took one back 100 yards for a touchdown.

Chris Philpott had a period in which he really struggled on field goals, but he has looked a lot better lately. His leg isn't the problem -- he's 2-for-2 from beyond 50 yards -- but when his mechanics are faulty, he can struggle with his accuracy.

Intangibles: This is one of the youngest teams in the country, by one account the second-least experienced of the 120 Division I teams. Though it's the second consecutive bowl trip for the Cardinals, starters and key reserves like Bridgewater, Parker, Harris, John Miller, Jake Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin, Calvin Pryor and Andrew Johnson are all freshman who will be getting their first taste of the postseason.

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