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Cotton Bowl Preview: Wisconsin vs. Western Michigan

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Oh great, the Big Ten’s signature bowl win is going to be against the MAC champion

Minnesota v Wisconsin Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

I’d like to start by congratulating Ohio State on shitting all over itself last night. Well done, just really, really well done. And Michigan fans, sit down right now and get the shit eating grin off your faces, you lost to the worst Florida State team in 5 years and the score was way closer than it should’ve been. Penn State, you’re probably going to get abused by USC tomorrow. Which leads us to Wisconsin, the conference’s only hope to save face in a bowl game people don’t just accidentally watch, and it’s against Directional Freaking Michigan. Phrases like “no win situation” and “well Wisconsin’s going to win, but there’s no way they win by enough to feel good about playing a MAC team, 12-0 or not in NY6 bowl” have been have been thrown around a lot, and all such phrases are correct.

Who: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Western Michigan Broncos

In a matchup of teams undefeated against the Big Ten West Division, everyone gets to see who wins the Cotton Bowl and who is the second best team in the division /stops typing, gets reminded Western Michigan is in the MAC even though they steamrolled Illinois. Let’s get this straight, Wisconsin comes covering Chris Godwin in the second half away from winning the Big Ten and playing in the Rose Bowl (at the very least) and instead is playing a team we’ve paid to come be a MACrifce fairly recently at noon on a Monday? Ugh...

Where: AT&T Stadium

People are so excited for this game the cheapest tickets are only $165 cheaper than when Wisconsin played Bama in the same stadium last year.

When: Monday, January 2, 2017 12 PM CST

Also known as prime “Speth’s still going to be hungover from the Packer game and has to work that night, but he’ll have a screwdriver or two anyway” time

Why: Because Western Michigan is the highest ranked Group of 5 school and someone in the top 10 has to play them.

Western Michigan=Titanic. Wisconsin=Iceberg.

The Breakdown

Wisconsin on Offense

Breaking news! Wisconsin likes to run the ball. Preferably with Corey Clement, who has run for 100 yards in 7 of his last 8 games, but Braderick Shaw and Dare Ogunbowale are no slouches. But you all know that already. That hasn’t changed in 15 years. One can only hope Malik Zaire transfers here so that we can run it with running backs, fullbacks, wide receivers, and the quarterback. Hornibrook’s about as mobile as former Minnesota Viking Joel Stave, which is to say my house is more likely to run for a 40 yard touchdown, and Bart Houston, while fairly mobile, is playing in his last career game. In the unfortunate situation either one of them drops back to pass (seriously Chryst, no one will question you running every single play, Western Michigan gives up 4.7 yards a carry), Troy Fumigalli, Rob Wheelwright, and Jazz Peavy are all capable receivers. It’s unfortunate they don’t have a quartrback to throw to them, because Peavy might be the most underrated wideout in the conference since learning how to catch a football the offseason.

Western Michigan on Offense

Surprisingly enough, a 13-0 MAC team has a dynamic offense. Asmuch as I’ve been ripping on playing a MAC team in the Cotton Bowl, Zach Terrell and Corey Davis are absolutely terrifying. Wisconsin’s defense was last seen getting torched by literally every single vertical pass Trace McSorely decided to throw. No one tell PJ Fleck that Corey Davis is basically the same size as Chris Godwin. Yes, it was mostly against MAC teams, but an almost 71% completion percentage while throwing 32 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions is insane. Again, this comes with the disclaimer that they played 9 MAC teams, but they also ran for 237 yards a game this season. You know what, screw it, they’re a MAC team, I’m done pretending that doesn’t matter. Western Michigan might be the only MAC team to keep it with 30 against Wisconsin, but all these stats don’t mean anything because Wisconsin would run for 500 yards a game against their schedule. Their best win is barely escaping against a Northwestern team Wisconsin manhandled.

Wisconsin on Defense

Candidly, Sojourn Shelton covering Corey Davis is terrifying. Also candidly, Wisconsin’s front seven teeing off on Terrell when Western Michigan’s only possible legitimate offensive weakness is their offensive line more than makes up for that. Oh yes, the stats are good, except for giving up 5 sacks to Illinois. Wisconsin’s defense is way better than Illinois’s. Western Michigan takes advantage of having better athletes than everyone in the MAC, and Fleck is insane recruiter, but Wisconsin is bigger, faster, and stronger than Western Michigan across the board. Davis will get his, but TJ Watt and Vince Biegel will likely be living in the Broncos backfield. If Wisconsin can get pressure while giving safety help, something that mysteriously didn’t happen in the second half against Penn State, it’s going to be a long day for Zach Terrell. Also of mote, Terrell’s only thrown 3 interceptions while Wisconsin has 21 on the season. Something is going to have to give there.

Western Michigan on Defense

Something something something insane stats, plays in the MAC something something. Western Michigan’s best player on defense is probably Darius Phillips, who has 3 pick sixes this year. If Joel Stave was playing I’d bet the farm he gets another, but he’s not. Hornibrook and Houston are way better at making sure guys get tackled after they throw stupid interceptions. Western Michigan hasn’t played a team this year that can pound the ball like Wisconsin can. It’s easy to stop teams when you’re more talented and all they do is chuck the ball downfield basically every play, even more so when they’re losing. Again, put Wisconsin in the MAC and see what happens. Wisconsin’s front seven will be the key to the game. If (and they will) get pressure, Terrell can be forced to make bad throw. He did throw 2 picks against Ohio.

Prediction

This game turns into a more smash mouth version of Florida State/Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl a few years ago where the talent gap is painfully obvious. You think the Big Ten is having a rough bowl season? The MAC is 0-5.

Wisconsin 38 Western Michigan 14