MIAMI (AP) — Teddy Bridgewater insists that this is no homecoming.
It's not like the quarterback for No. 20 Louisville is ignoring that his team will play in Miami — his hometown — when it visits FIU on Saturday night. He's not denying that the crowd will likely include plenty of friends and family, or that 21 of his Cardinal teammates also grew up in the South Florida region that spans Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
For Bridgewater, who is off to a flying start in his sophomore season, all that sounds like distractions in the making. So he's taking the simple route, saying all that matters to him is leading the Cardinals to their fourth straight win to open the season, even though this road trip is back to his home turf.
"I'm treating it like any other road game," Bridgewater said. "And my main goal is just to go down there and play football. We're going down there to play a football game."
As good as that sounds, there's no denying that there's tons of ties that bind these rosters.
It's no secret that Louisville coach Charlie Strong loves to recruit in the Miami area. FIU coach Mario Cristobal and Louisville recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt both played college football at nearby Miami, and both were on the Hurricanes' coaching staffs in recent years. There's even a brother vs. brother element — FIU running back Darian Mallary and Louisville cornerback Andrew Johnson are siblings, set to potentially collide on the field for the first time.
Oh, if more intrigue is needed, there's this: FIU went to Louisville last year and won 24-17, a loss that still stings the Cardinals.
"What is going to be critical at this time is we maintain our focus, we maintain our emotion and we are going to have to play with confidence and compete," said Strong, whose team is beginning a three-game road swing after starting the year with three games at home. "Every second has to count. Last season, you look at FIU, and they came in here beat us."
So this time, the Cardinals (3-0) plan to return the favor. And FIU (1-2) knows what happened last year will be on Louisville's mind come Saturday.
The Panthers' biggest problem in the early going has been on the defensive side, where they've allowed 46 points to Duke, 38 to Akron (FIU's lone win) and 33 to UCF so far this season. That's not sitting well with Cristobal, who is taking some consolation in that the Panthers have shown big improvement in the yards-allowed department in each of their past two games.