Who to watch: Louisville v. Florida (Sugar Bowl)

Sugar Bowl

Wednesday, January 2, 8:00pm EST

ESPN

The ACTUAL best quarterback of the 2012 season

Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater, #5, Sophomore, QB

Is it Barkley?  Is it Murray?  Is it Glennon?  Is it Bray?  Is it Geno?  While the debate rages on about who the best QB in the 2013 NFL Draft will be, Teddy Bridgewater (a draft ineligible sophomore) has quietly become… wait for it… the best passer in college football.

Bridewater’s 2012 season graded at a 116 (anything above 95 signifies a potential elite prospect).  This is the highest score of the 2012 season and the 11th highest score I have in my database of 300+ quarterback seasons.  For perspective, this performance checks in just below the final college season for guys named Sam Bradford, Russell Wilson, and RG3.  Further, he checks in JUST AHEAD– I’m about to blaspheme– of guys named Philip Rivers, Andy Dalton, and Andrew Luck.

Do I have your attention?

One of two things will happen tonight.  First, Louisville will get roughed up by a Florida Gators team that boasts one of the best three defenses in college football.  Bridgewater will struggle against the increased speed and depth, which will ignite a fire under him to be even better in 2013.  Or, Bridgewater’s star will shine and people across the country will start the Bridgewater for Heisman and #1 pick in the 2013-14 season.  Either way, this guy isn’t going away.

(Side note: I think the Louisville Cardinals are an under-the-radar 2013 National Championship contender.  See what you think).

Florida

Mike Gillislee, #23, Senior, RB

Before the season started I took the Florida Gators at 50-1 to win the National Championship.  Although I came up a Jordan Reed fumble away from having something to root for next  Monday, I did enjoy watching the Gators throughout the season.  The person who became my undisputed man-crush of the 2012 season was Mike Gillislee.

The Gators were going to have an all-world defense from day 1; the trick for them was going to be finding offense.  Early and often, the Gators leaned on Gillislee while the quarterback situation worked itself out.  In the first five games of the season, Gillislee posted an average stat line of 20 carries–109 yards– 1.4 touchdowns, highlighted by 34/146/2 performance in the Gators win over LSU which catapulted them into the national spotlight.  As the season wore on, MG continued to play well, albeit hurt, and was the offensive MVP of the Gators.

For the season, consider that Gillislee faced the 3rd toughest schedule out of more than 50 RBs studied when looking at premier games.  His average stat line in those games:  25-118-1.5

Expect tonight’s game to be a slugfest, with two hungry and capable teams, and two outstanding & hard-hitting defenses.  Gillislee will hear his named called plenty.  Looking ahead to the NFL draft, expect him to be drafted in the middle rounds, but will quickly endear himself to an NFL team with his quiet leadership, tough running, and pass blocking (see 13 second mark of this video vs LSU)

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