Over the past week and-a-half, only one Louisville football storyline has rivaled the Cards taking back the Governor's Cup for the first time since 2006: Should freshman Teddy Bridgewater supplant junior Will Stein as U of L's starting quarterback?
The answer is yes. At least for this weekend.
Starting Stein vs. Marshall, regardless of the health of his shoulder, is a lose-lose situation for all involved. There were plenty of folks who were clamoring for Bridgewater to start when Stein was beating Murray State and throwing for 343 yards against Florida International. There is nothing Stein can do against a team like the Thundering Herd that could sway these people, but there's plenty he could do to make them voice their opinion.
If Stein starts on Saturday, the second he makes the slightest mistake you're going to hear a very loud buzz coming from the crowd at what should be a packed Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Just like that, all the positive energy that carried over from the Kentucky win will be lost.
Starting Stein also puts far more pressure on Bridgewater than there would be in a situation where the freshman was "forced" to start because Stein wasn't quite 100%. If Will struggles then people are going to expect Teddy - who will already be playing with the discomfort of not knowing how long he's going to be staying in the game - to set the world on fire from snap one.
Lose. Lose. Lose.
I'm not ready to completely hand the offense over to Teddy for the next four years just yet, but you simply have to let him take the reins on Saturday.
Marshall is a team that will bring pressure on nearly every down, but they also boast a defense that's surrendered 30 or more points in three of their four games. Witnessing what Bridgewater did when he was forced into action at Commonwealth Stadium two weeks ago makes me believe he's more than capable of guiding the Cardinal offense to success this weekend. And if he isn't, you've got Stein ready to come in and play conquering hero.
Charlie Strong says he doesn't believe in a guy losing his job because of an injury, and I get that. What he has to get is that taking the ball away from Bridgewater in the first game after perhaps the biggest regular season win Louisville has had in four years is a move that doesn't benefit anyone.
Even if Stein is healthy, use the shoulder as an excuse and then let him re-assume his role as captain of the offense against North Carolina. It's a road game where he won't have to hear the hum from the crowd every time he misses on a pass Aaron Rodgers wouldn't have completed. Even more, Louisville figures to be a fairly decided underdog; The perfect opportunity for the veteran to prove he's worthy of the top spot on the depth chart.
For Saturday, however, it must be Teddy time once more.