Smith didn’t take over for Kentucky until Morgan Newton was injured and only saw mop up action until the Mississippi State game. So if we remove Florida, LSU, and South Carolina, we get a better Idea of what Smith’s season REALLY looked like. On the other hand, Bridgewater only saw spot action against Murray State and FIU as well, so if we remove those two games for him, here’s what the statistics look like.
Completions/Attempts: Maxwell Smith completed 77 of 134 attempts, completing 57.5% of his passes. Teddy Bridgewater’s numbers are only slightly skewed and he still completed 189 of 293 passes for an identical completion percentage of 64.5% of his throws. While Bridgerwater still comes out ahead, Smith’s numbers look much better.
TD-INT: Maxwell Smith was able to toss 4 touchdown passes and only two picks in the four games he fully participated in. Bridgewater still threw 13 touchdown passes, but drops off an interception (down to 11) when you remove the first two games of the season. The big difference here is that while Smith threw for a 1 touchdown per game average and Bridgewater barely sneaks in ahead of him with 1.18 touchdowns per game, Smith didn’t turn the ball over like Bridgewater did. Smith only threw 0.5 interceptions per game where Bridgewater threw 1 pick per contest. Even though Bridgewater averaged more touchdowns per game, doubling Smith’s interceptions per game makes this an easy choice.
Yards: Smith threw for 769 yards in his four games for an average of 192.25 yards per contest. Bridgewater threw for 2,115 per game in his eleven games for 192.27 per contest. Since we round up both to 192.3 yards per game, this one is a dead even push for both players.
Efficiency: Smith’s numbers improve drastically here. His efficiency rating jumps way up to 112.53 points. Bridgewater’s rating dips ever so slightly down to a 131.59 rating that still keeps him well ahead of Smith. The lack of touchdowns really hurts the UK quarterback in this category.
So now, even though Bridgewater came out ahead again, it was much closer this time around. Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. Let’s look at the level of competition each player played against.
Competition: This is so not even close it blows my mind. Maxwell Smith played against Florida (#9), South Carolina (#4), LSU (#2), Mississippi State (#43), Ole Miss (#89), Vanderbilt (#19) and Georgia (#3). Smith’s opponents had an average defensive ranking of #24. Bridgewater on the other hand, had a much easier road to travel. His schedule included FIU (#33), UK (#58), Marshall (#86), North Carolina (#40), Cincinnati (#47), Rutgers (#13), Syracuse (#65), West Virginia (#27), Pittsburg (#41), Connecticut (#49), South Florida (#38), and NC State (#39). Bridgewater ended up playing opponents with an average defensive ranking of #45. Smith played the tougher competition by far. If you don’t count Ole Miss, he was actually competing against an average of the #13 defense in the country each week.
Now, to be fair, I’ll cut out the same games we excluded earlier. When we do that, Smith loses Florida, South Carolina, and LSU. This drops his opponent’s average defensive ranking way down to #38. When we cut out FIU for Bridgewater, his opponent’s average defensive ranking actually jumps back a spot to #46. It’s still not even close.
I actually have mixed feelings here. Teddy Bridgewater had a good year for a true freshman and Louisville fans have a lot to be excited about. I still don’t think he was any kind of world-beater though and more importantly, he only played against one defense in the top 25 and one more in the top 30. It’s easy to look good when you’re not playing anyone. On the other hand, I don’t know why more UK fans aren’t excited about Smith. He had numbers almost identical to Bridgewater’s in most categories and did so playing against significantly tougher competition. I guess what’s vexing here, is that UK fans do not seem excited about Smith, but Louisville fans have already nicknamed Bridgewater “Teddy Heisman.” I know UofL fans are usually delusional and UK fans are typically pessimistic, but hopefully seeing how well Smith did when compared to the first team freshman all-American will give some Wildcat fans some hope. Maxwell Smith had a very promising year in 2011 and has earned some fan excitement heading into 2012.