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The Numerical, Dec. 28 bowls: Bridgewater and Switzer star, Palmer does the Heimlich

If field goals are failures, there was a lot of failure on Saturday. Still, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Switzer, Tyler Lockett, and (in the booth) Jesse Palmer came up big for fans on the last active college football Saturday of the season.

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports


Tyler Lockett's listed weight. The Kansas State junior receiver might be, pound for pound, the best player in college football, and if he returns for his senior season (and one assumes he will), KSU fans have only his minimal pounds to thank for it.

Lockett is in no way of typical NFL size, and his name doesn't exactly come up in mock-Draft discussions, but he might be the strongest combination of speed and route-running in college football right now.

And he showed off all of his tricks in KSU's 31-14 win over Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. He caught 10 of 11 passes for 116 yards and three touchdowns, he broke off a double move for an easy score and pounded out some tough yards on shorter catches, and any time KSU needed yards, quarterback Jake Waters simply looked for No. 16. Waters could have thrown to Lockett 10 more times if he'd needed to, but he didn't need to.


Teddy Bridgewater's completion percentage in Louisville's 36-9 win over Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. In a game in which neither team could run the ball -- Miami's Gus Edwards and Dallas Crawford combined for 73 yards on 23 carries, and while Louisville's Senorise Perry averaged 7.7 yards, Dominique Brown went for 42 in 16 -- the game came down to quarterbacking. Bridgewater's usually going to win that contest.

Assuming this was indeed Bridgewater's final game as a Cardinal, he chose one hell of a way to go out. Though Louisville vanished from the national consciousness after its upset loss to UCF, the Cardinals reappeared on Saturday, just in time for Bridgewater to go 35-for-45 for 447 yards and three touchdowns.

His first pass attempt of the night was a sack that resulted in a safety. The next 45 were basically 10 yards here, 10 yards there, and an occasional scrambling lollipop.

Bridgewater's performance spoke for itself, though that didn't prevent announcers Bob Wischusen and Rod Gilmore from attempting to plump it up even more. The Russell Athletic Bowl narrative was clearly "Bridgewater might be the No. 1 pick!" and Wischusen couldn't let a pass go by without throwing in a "well-thrown" or "finessed" with every pass, following every completion with variations of, "it's throws like that that get NFL scouts' attention," or, "such good decision-making going to the check-down option like that."

Teddy was clearly great. We didn't need the help in seeing it. (It's hard to avoid repetition in a four-hour broadcast, yes, and this team was otherwise just fine. But still.)


Michigan's F/+ ranking in Rich Rodriguez's third year in charge. The Wolverines went 7-6 that season, and Rodriguez was let go.

Granted, the bones of the current Michigan team are stronger -- there's a lot of youth here, and though they will probably fall in the final rankings, the Wolverines did rank 32nd in F/+ heading into bowls -- but in terms of symmetry, it just went 7-6 in Brady Hoke's third year. Even for a young team, there were enough blue-chippers on the field for Michigan that one should have expected the Wolverines to show better than they did against a Kansas State team that was ready and sound but only good, not elite.

One can easily raise question about the performances of both coordinators in 2013. And the offensive line, though (again) incredibly young, was baffling in its ineffectiveness. Michigan rushed 14 times for 67 yards against KSU, leaving almost the entire game plan in the hands of true freshman quarterback Shane Morris. Morris acquitted himself reasonably well but still averaged just 5.0 yards per pass attempt.

When Michigan ran a ton of misdirection and mini-trick plays on its opening drive and still managed to only kick a field goal, you had to know the Wolverines were in trouble. With Kansas State both grinding out seven-minute drives and scoring touchdowns at the end of them, the Wolverines were, indeed, in trouble.

And while we're on the topic of third-year coaches, I know there is come growing impatience in South Florida regarding Al Golden's performance, but his Hurricanes went 9-4 and will likely finish in the F/+ top 35 this season. That's far from amazing, but it's also pretty solid improvement after Golden's first two squads ranked 40th and 55th.

He won't have many sanctions-related excuses moving into the future, but this season was a step forward. As long as he takes another one next year, he's fine.


Field goal attempts on Saturday. I wrote on Saturday that, in essence, field goals are failures.

Averaging under about 4.0 or 4.5 points per trip inside your opponent's 40-yard line is pretty bad overall. In this sense, settling for field goals at all is a bit of a failure, since the most you can score on a field goal is, obviously, three points. BYU scored one touchdown in six trips, settled for four field goals (making three), and ran out of clock at the end of the game on a sixth trip. Washington, meanwhile, had its own issues, scoring only 24 points in six trips of its own. But the Huskies scored three touchdowns and got a fourth off of the aforementioned kick return. That gave them some leeway while kicking one field goal and turning the ball over on downs twice.

In four bowls on Saturday, teams attempted 21 field goals (they made 16), and offenses scored 18 touchdowns. Offenses also allowed two safeties, for that matter.

It was a conservative day of ball. Rutgers (a heavy underdog that needed to figure out ways to steal points, mind you) kicked the dreaded 18-yard field goal; Notre Dame jumped offside on the kick, but Rutgers elected to keep the points instead of going for it on fourth-and-goal from the half-yard line. And in a less extreme example, Michigan, down 21-6 with a minute left in the first half, elected to punt from near midfield on fourth-and-three.

Why lose quickly when you can lose slowly?


Points scored by North Carolina in a less-than-four-minute span in the first quarter of the Belk Bowl. That's good; more notable is that all three units -- offense, defense, special teams -- got involved. Romar Morris scored to cap an 11-play, 68-yard touchdown drive. Three minutes later, Kareem Martin and Brandon Ellerbe converged to blow up Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay in the end zone for a safety. And then T.J. Logan returned the ensuing free kick for a touchdown.

UNC jumped out to leads of 16-0 and 29-3 and cruised from there, 39-17. Each time Cincinnati did something well, UNC would simply respond in kind.

The young Tar Heels handled adversity beautifully in 2013, responding to a 1-5 start with a five-game, bowl-clinching winning streak. But in Charlotte, in Belk-land, UNC decided it was done with drama. The Heels built an early cushion and never even thought about relinquishing it.


An encouraging sign for a 2014 Irish offense that returns most of its weapons and Everett Golson.

Notre Dame players who caught a 10-yard pass on Saturday in the 29-16 Irish win in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Rutgers' secondary has been shuffled around all year and was a major dark spot for the team as a whole in 2013; knowing they didn't have the pieces, the Scarlet Knights chose to play soft coverage all the way down the field, bending as long as possible before stiffening and holding Notre Dame to field goals. It worked for a while -- the game was tied at 13-13 at halftime, though Rutgers' offense was just about done scoring -- but Notre Dame could complete a 10- or 15-yard comeback pass anytime it wanted to, and Tommy Rees had a strong day of decision-making and general accuracy in his final Irish start.

Rees completed 27 of 47 passes for 319 yards, a decent average of 6.8 yards per pass attempt. It wasn't spectacular, and he did get impatient and throw deeper passes into coverage at times, but he still distributed the ball well, completing five passes to T.J. Jones and Chris Brown, four to Troy Niklas, three to DaVaris Daniels, Tarean Folston, and Cam McDaniel, etc.

Notre Dame had too many weapons for Rutgers' typically outmanned defense, and unlike certain points in 2013, the Irish used them all. It was an encouraging sign for a 2014 Irish offense that returns most of its weapons and 2012 starter Everett Golson.

Rutgers' Chas Dodd, meanwhile, went out on a less happy note. The on-and-off starter for Rutgers completed 10 of 28 passes for 156 yards, a touchdown, three picks, and four sacks. Yards per pass attempt: 3.9. Take away a single bomb to Brandon Coleman, and the average sinks to 2.4 yards. He did rush six times for 55 yards and engineered three first-half scoring drives, but the magic pretty quickly ran out.


Jesse Palmer's number at Florida.

I could vent about how the former Spurrier quarterback says only the most predictable, new-school-Craig-James things, how we can talk for two minutes at a time and say nothing, how it frustrates me to no end that he gets so much screen time for saying nothing (oh, but that hair...), how he brings nothing to the table ... but I would be wrong.

He does bring something to the table: he saves the lives of really, really good announcers. And for that, despite at one point saying that Tommy Rees had an "unbelievable" career at Notre Dame (and apparently meaning it in a positive way), Palmer was the MVP of Saturday. And maybe December altogether.


Punt return touchdowns for UNC freshman Ryan Switzer in 2013. That ties the NCAA mark, but the fact that a freshman did that isn't the crazy part. The crazy part is … he had zero heading into November.

Switzer had shown potential in this regard, ripping off a 41-yarder against East Carolina in September, but the breakout came in Chapel Hill against Virginia, and then he just kept right on breaking out. One score against Virginia. Two against Pittsburgh. One more against Old Dominion. In his final 13 punt returns of 2013, Switzer averaged 31.4 yards per return and returned 38 percent of them for scores. That is patently absurd.

The touchdown on Saturday might have been my favorite.

Some Cincinnati coverage guys thought that he was bluffing and that the ball was actually going to land near the goal line, so they just ran on by. Some thought Switzer was going to do the smart thing and call for a fair catch, since the ball seemed to be hanging in the air for about eight seconds. Never assume these things, Cincy. Not when some precocious freshman is scoring on every third punt return and is looking to tie a record.

When a team is punting to a great return man, there is an aura of anticipation in the air, even though he's probably not actually going to break a big one. When he indeed breaks a big one, that is one of the greater rushes in football. Ryan Switzer was one sustained rush over the final third of the college football season.


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