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