52F Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
Teddy Bridgewater isn't receiving the Heisman Trophy hype often reserved for a quarterback guiding a team in the top 10 of the BCS standings, but Louisville may not be in that position without him.
The Cardinals can secure their first 10-win season in six years with a victory at Syracuse on Saturday.
Louisville (9-0, 4-0 Big East), ranked 11th in the AP poll, is off to the best start in school history as Bridgewater continues to impress. He finished 19 for 28 for 324 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in last week's 45-17 blowout of Temple.
The sophomore, who has 18 touchdowns and only four interceptions, ranks fifth in the FBS with a 170.0 passer rating, and his 70.4 completion percentage is sixth.
"You can't predict games like these," Bridgewater said. "It just comes, and we're thankful to have this type of success."
Bridgewater, though, rarely is mentioned in conversations regarding the Heisman despite guiding the Cardinals to No. 9 in the BCS standings and a legitimate shot at their first major bowl game since the 2006 squad went 12-1 and beat Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.
"To see the game Teddy had with five touchdowns ... What is unbelievable about Teddy is that he is just able to find open receivers," coach Charlie Strong said.
Bridgewater, though, had to help bring Louisville back for the sixth straight game after it allowed Temple to return the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown.
The Cardinals, who have yet to face a ranked opponent, had won the previous five by 10 points or fewer, and Strong said they'll need to play better to avoid a letdown at Syracuse (4-5, 3-2).
"This is a big game this week against Syracuse," Strong said. "It is a road game, and anytime we go on the road, we know we have to pack our defense, our special teams, and our discipline. What we cannot do is lose our focus and we have to continue to execute and continue to get better."
Louisville allowed a season-worst 255 rushing yards last week and hopes to be more prepared for an Orange team wanting to get the ground game going Saturday.
Jerome Smith rushed 21 times for 116 yards and a touchdown last week, but Syracuse fell 35-24 at Cincinnati. Ryan Nassib went 23 of 47 for 286 yards and a score, marking the fifth time he's thrown at least 40 passes.
"A lot of times people look at (the Orange) and think they throw the ball a lot, but the reason why they had to throw the ball is because they were coming from behind," Strong said. "But, they want to establish the run and that is to the philosophy of (coach Doug Marrone).
Syracuse leads the Big East in total yards at 463.8 per game, while Louisville is third at 430.1. The Cardinals, though, have committed only eight turnovers to the Orange's 17.
"We know that they are a good team," Syracuse defensive back Ri'Shard Anderson said. "We know that they have good coaches. They don't want to get knocked off but it's a great opportunity for us to knock off a team where we don't have that opportunity all of the time."
Bridgewater threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns while Nassib finished with 162 and a score in Louisville's 27-10 victory in last season's meeting - the Cardinals' third straight win in the series.