Posted on 22 December 2009.
Despite finishing the season 9-3, including their thrashing of Hawaii last night, the Wisconsin Badgers were passed over for the Outback Bowl in favor of Northwestern.
Why the Outback Bowl Committee chose the Wildcats over the Badgers is still somewhat of a mystery. Sure, Northwestern beat Wisconsin, but the Badgers finished with a better overall record and are known to travel extremely well. However, I’m not going to get into that now.
In fact, I’m glad Wisconsin is going to Orlando instead of Tampa. Obviously, the Outback Bowl is on New Year’s Day and is a more prestigious game, but the Champs Sports Bowl is going to be a much more attractive match-up.
Wisconsin (9-3) vs. Miami (FL) (9-3) or Northwestern (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5)? I think it’s pretty obvious which game most fans will watch. Plus, the Champs Sports Bowl will be in prime-time on Dec. 29 while the Outback Bowl will largely be overlooked with it’s 11:00 a.m. start time on New Year’s.
From a fan’s perspective, it’s also nice to see the Badgers play an opponent they haven’t seen in a while. Wisconsin hasn’t played the Hurricanes since 1989, while they played the Tigers only four years ago.
I see Wisconsin-Miami as being one of the best games this bowl season and if the Badgers can pull one out, would be their biggest win since their victory over Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl in 2007.
However, it’s not going to be easy. Miami was viewed as one of the top teams in the nation before they stumbled a bit down the homestretch but are still one of the most talented teams the Badgers have faced in recent memory.
Here are a few keys to the game for Wisconsin.
If statistics are any indication, this game could very well be a shootout. Miami is giving up 22 points a game and haven’t fared well against good offenses. In all three of Miami’s losses, they gave up over 30 points, including 40 to Clemson. And there’s no question the Badgers have a good offense.
Wisconsin is averaging close to 33 points a game, including their 51 against the Warriors, with a very balanced attack that relies on the ground attack but incorporates the pass as well.
The key for Wisconsin is definitely the running game though. The Badgers finished the year with almost 2,500 rushing yards with Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay leading the way with almost 1,400 of those and 16 touchdowns. Freshman Montee Ball has also chipped in with over 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Miami is giving up about 120 yards a game on the ground and the Badgers need to take advantage of this.
However, Wisconsin can’t rely solely on the running game. Sure, they did against Hawaii, but the Hurricanes aren’t exactly the Warriors. They’ve given up points to high-powered ACC offenses, so it’s not like they’ve been total pushovers on defense.
Wisconsin needs to get their passing game going as well. When the Badgers have truly clicked on offense this year, their passing game was in sync. Scott Tolzien has very consistent for the Badgers this year, throwing for 16 touchdowns with only 10 picks, and he needs to have a good game. Nick Toon (52 catches), Garrett Graham (45), and Isaac Anderson (30) have all made Tolzien’s transition into a starting role this year much easier and he will surely look for them often against Miami.
Luckily for Tolzien, Miami has had trouble creating turnovers this year as they only have eight interceptions on the year. When the Badgers have struggled on offense, Tolzien has turned over the ball and for Wisconsin to have any hope, Tolzien cannot be careless.
The Badgers will have to make sure to protect Tolzien however. Miami has 23 sacks this year, with Allen Bailey leading the way with seven of those. However, Wisconsin’s offensive line has been solid all year, usually giving Tolzien adequate time to make good decisions.
For all the great aspects of Wisconsin’s offense, their defense, especially against the pass, represents the polar opposite. Wisconsin gives up 22 points a game and they haven’t faced an offense quite like Miami’s.
The Hurricanes, led by quarterback Jacory Harris, average nearly 32 points a game and are capable of scoring in bunches. They’ve scored over 30 points in seven of their games including 52 against Virginia and have a multi-faceted attack, much like Wisconsin.
However, whereas Wisconsin favors the run, Miami favors the pass. Uh-oh. Harris has thrown for over 3,000 yards this season with 23 touchdowns, his favorite target being Leonard Hankerson (44 catches, 6 TDs.) The Wisconsin pass ‘D’ has been their Achilles heel all year long as they’ve given up over 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air this year. Against good passing attacks, Wisconsin has looked virtually helpless and have shown hardly any signs of improvement. Against Miami, this could be a lost cause.
Miami does have an effective running game as well, with three players rushing for over 500 yards this year, but Wisconsin’s rush defense is significantly better than their pass defense. Led by senior defensive end O’Brien Schofield (20.5 TFL), Wisconsin gives up less than 100 yards a game on the ground, first in the Big Ten.
Miami’s offense is something the Badgers have not experienced this year. Offensively, the Big Ten was weak this year and even then the Badgers struggled somewhat. Simply put, Wisconsin will have to have it’s best defensive performance of the year if they hope to hold Miami under 30 points.
Although as a Badger fan and UW student it pains me to do it, I think Miami will have Wisconsin’s number on Dec. 29. Not only are the Hurricanes playing just hours from home, but I simply think they are more talented and better coached than Wisconsin. Both teams have high-scoring offenses and inconsistent defenses and the last team with the ball could very well get the victory. I do think the Badgers will keep it close, unlike last year, but in the end I think Miami gets it done.
Miami 38, Wisconsin 34
Posted on 22 December 2009.
When Wisconsin takes on Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl in a couple of weeks, it will be more than just an opportunity for the Badgers to get their first bowl win in three years.
If the Badgers can pull out a win against the “U,” based on the sheer number of returning players next year, it could be the catalyst for a huge year for Wisconsin in 2010.
A return to the Champs Sports Bowl certainly wasn’t what the 2009 Badgers hoped for, but if the 2010 version can play up to their talent level next year, a trip to the Rose Bowl is a definite possibility.
Wisconsin will be losing some vital players, notably TE Garrett Graham and DE O’Brien Schofield, but it will be returning the vast majority of a team that went 9-3 with the possibility of notching 10 wins with a bowl victory.
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons why Wisconsin overachieved this year was because of their surprisingly consistent quarterback play.
After a year in which starting quarterback Allen Evridge was benched in favor of Dustin Scherer only for Scherer to be benched in favor of Scott Tolzien, the Badgers seemed to be in a position in which quarterback play once again was their downfall.
However, that hasn’t been the case. With a year under his belt, Tolzien should come back next year poised and ready to lead the team to a conference championship.
Not to mention all of Tolzien’s top targets, other than Graham, will be back for the 2010 season. Nick Toon and Isaac Anderson have had breakout years and hopefully for Wisconsin’s sake, David Gilreath will get back on track after a disappointing 2009 campaign.
Wisconsin’s offensive line will also be intact next year after doing a great job protecting Tolzien this year.
Am I forgetting anything?
Oh yeah, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay, will be back and ready to make a run at the Heisman.
Defensively, the Badgers have a little more work to do for 2010.
They lose their best defensive player in Schofield along with linebacker Jaevery McFadden and safety Chris Maragos.
However, for the most part, the 2010 season is looking pretty good for Wisconsin. A bowl win to end this season would be huge.
The one big criticism that fans could have for the 2009 Badgers is that they never won the big game. Ohio State, Iowa, and Northwestern were all games that could have solidified the Badgers resume and gave them some serious swagger, yet all three times the Badgers came out on the losing end.
A win over an up-and-coming Miami team would be absolutely huge for the confidence of this team. Wisconsin is undoubtedly the underdog in this game and I believe that a victory could really carry over into next year. It would finally give this team its signature win. Virtually on Miami’s home field, a win in Orlando would be Wisconsin’s biggest as a program since their Capital One Bowl victory at the end of 2006-07 season.
A blowout loss, on the other hand, could lead to disaster next year. Although on paper this team should be able to compete with anyone in the Big Ten next year, their lack of a big win could undermine their confidence and, ultimately, their play.
Football, after all, is a game of momentum, and the Badgers need it to be on their side going into next year if they hope to accomplish more than just a bowl game in Florida. A win over Miami could just do the trick.
–Originally posted on bleacherreport.com
Posted on 19 December 2009.
After more than a month-long hiatus, College FootBlog is back and ready for this year’s bowl season. On December 29th, the ACC’s Miami Hurricanes (9-3) will take on the Big Ten’s Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) in the Champs Sports Bowl. In this match up, the ‘Canes will look to show the college football world that they were overlooked for a New Year’s Day bowl, while the Badgers will try to redeem themselves after getting blown out by Florida State in their bowl game last season.
College FootBlog will break down this match up, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and will conclude with a score prediction.
Strengths: With sophomore Jacory Harris as the trigger man, the Hurricane’s passing attack has put up some big numbers in 2009. After splitting time with Robert Marve last season, Harris has really developed since taking over as the full-time QB.
His corps of receivers has helped as well. Junior wideout Leonard Hankerson leads the group with 773 yards and six touchdowns on the season, and if Laron Byrd can come up with 69 yards and Travis Benjamin can come up with ten yards, the ‘Canes would finish the season with three WR’s with at least 500 yards on the year.
Key Concern: Despite having a ton of speed and athleticism, Miami has been very inconsistent on defense. The ‘Canes rank 25th in yards per game on defense, they have given up some points. In fact, the ‘Canes have given up over thirty points four times this season.
The bright side for Miami in this match up is their ability to stop the run, led by linebacker Colin McCarthy.
Strengths: As sophomore running back John Clay goes, so does the Badgers’ offense. The bruising 248-pound back enters this bowl game just four yards shy of 1,400 and has rushed for 16 TD’s on the year. Clay has enjoyed anothergreat year, following the traditional stellar offensive line that consistently produces NFL talent.
At nearly 220 yards passing allowed per game, the Badgers have not exactly been stingy this year, especially considering the Big Ten is not known for throwing the football around.
Wisconsin ranks 66th nationally against the pass, and despite shutting down pass-happy Hawaii and limiting them to ten points and 214 total yards, the Badger defensive backs will face much more speed than they have seen so far this season.
The Badgers will need a big day from their secondary if they want to stay in this game.
Wisconsin Offense vs. Miami Defense
Although Miami has seen a couple of dominant running teams this season in Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, they have not faced an offensive line like this. Look for the ‘Canes to stack the box and force quarterback Scott Tolzien to beat them.
Still, Clay will easily eclipse the 1,400 yard mark on the season, and he should make a real run at 1,500. Slight EDGE: Wisconsin
Miami Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense
As previously mentioned, the Wisconsin secondary should have their hands full with the speed and the talent that the ‘Canes possess at wide receiver. The silver lining for the Badgers could be that Miami’s senior offensive tackle Jason Fox is out for this game.
The Badgers will have to get pressure on Jacory Harris, or it will be a very long day. Mix in Graig Cooper’s receiving ability out of the backfield, and Miami could score and score quickly. EDGE: Miami
The big difference here could be the return men. Wisconsin’s David Gilreath is a dangerous returner on kick offs and punts. Miami counters will very dangerous tandem of Travis Benjamin and Graig Cooper. Both kickers, Miami’s Matt Bosher and Wiconsin’s Phillip Welch have been solid this season as well. Slight EDGE: Miami
The Big Ten had another let down of a season in ’09, but the ACC didn’t exactly light things up this year, either. Wisconsin was supposed to have the big advantage last year against Florida State with their ability to run the football. Things did not go so well for the Badgers, as the Seminoles rolled to a 42-13 win.
Like last year’s match up, the Badgers will likely have a difficult time keeping up with Miami’s speed on offense. Wisconsin has shown that they can be vulnerable to the pass, and they could be facing the best passing offense they have gone against in a couple years. Look for Miami to roll. Score Prediction: Miami 34, Wisconsin 17