Louisville coach Charlie Strong told the players on his his team that Thursday night's nationally televised game with Rutgers will give the whole country a chance to watch them play. Inside the stadium, there will be a large contingent of NFL scouts on hand.
Louisville TV station WDRB reported there will be at least 26 NFL scouts in attendance, from 20 teams. Jacksonville has asked for three credentials, including one for Jaguars GM David Caldwell. Pittsburgh will also have its GM, Kevin Colbert, present. And Tampa Bay is sending Eric Stokes, the team's director of scouting, the station reported.
The main attraction will be Louisville junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who sits atop a lot of draft boards and is the No. 3-rated passer in Bucky Brooks' college football quarterback rankings. Bridgewater (listed by Louisville at 6-foot-3, 196 pounds) is averaging 312.4 passing yards per game, with 16 TDs and one interception, and he is completing 71.7 percent of his passes.
Bridgewater has been a topic of speculation over the last few days. On Tuesday, a New York Post columnist suggested the New York Giants -- if in position to do so -- draft Bridgewater as Eli Manning's successor. And on Wednesday, on the College Football 24/7 podcast, draft analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks discussed Bridgewater as a prospect and the Giants and Steelers as possible fits.
While Brooks liked the idea of replacing Manning with Bridgewater, Jeremiah said the Louisville quarterback would not be an upgrade over Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.
"If the Steelers have a top-5 pick, they should trade it for four offensive linemen. They are so bad up front," Jeremiah said. "I believe in Roethlisberger. I believe you put the pieces around Roethlisberger."
Jeremiah, a former scout for three NFL teams, continued: "From the grades I've handed out, I'd have (Bridgewater) behind (Matthew) Stafford, I'd have him in that Ryan Tannehill group, probably I'd have him behind RG III. I'd have him over (Mark) Sanchez when he came out. I liked Alex Smith when he came out, so grade-wise I'd have him right there with Alex Smith."
The scouts could see a prolific night from Bridgewater; he will be throwing against a Rutgers secondary that surrendered 484 passing yards to SMU, 456 to Fresno State and 335 to Eastern Michigan.
Also of interest to scouts in Thursday's game will be Rutgers junior wide receiver Brandon Coleman. At 6-6, 220 pounds, he has an intriguing combination of size, speed and production. Coleman had 43 receptions for 718 yards (16.7 yards per catch) and 10 TDs last season but has struggled some this season, with 15 receptions for 220 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. He missed spring drills after what was described as a minor knee surgery, and he hasn't looked as fast as he did last season. Still, at his best, Coleman is physical and quick, and his size poses a huge problem for opposing corners and safeties.
While Bridgewater and Coleman will be the night's stars, Strong said the game is a chance for his whole team to show off.
"What happens is you get the whole country watching your game, and a lot of the recruits you want get the chance to get a good look at your program," he said in his weekly teleconference. "A lot of people haven't had the opportunity to watch us play yet, and with it being a good opponent, they can see just exactly who we are and what we are all about."
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.