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Orange Bowl Preview: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Miami Hurricanes

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Against their second Real Team® of the season, can the Badgers find their first win?

Big Ten Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I'm gonna get it out of the way right way. Losing to Ohio State sucked. A lot. Losing the chance to play in the playoff, losing in the Big Ten Championship game back to back years, none of that is fun. With that said, this is still a big game for the Badgers. First, because if the Badgers win this game, it will close the book on 2017 Wisconsin=2015 Iowa. Advanced stats already say they aren't (S&P+ has this Wisconsin team 37 spots higher than Iowa that year), but beating Miami would be the eye test that proves it. There's also the matter of breaking the school record for wins in a season and winning back to back NY6 Bowls. It would also probably help the perception of the Big Ten West if Wisconsin beats Miami. Miami’s the only program worth a damn in the ACC Coastal Division. Nobody else is going to put a feather in Big Ten West’s pee stained cap, so this is probably the only realistic chance for some division pride. Do I care about division pride? Actually no, but I'll never miss a chance to remind the entire division they suck and none of you are relevant.

When Wisconsin Has the Ball

Wisconsin proved against OSU that it can move the ball against an actual defense. The problem of course is that Alex Hornibrook will throw at least one back breaking interception a game. This is a fact. Getting picked off on the five yard line on your first possession of a game is less than ideal. The other problem is that defenses with athletes don’t respect him in the slightest. Even when he was competing passes and making throws OSU was putting 10 guys in the box, and Greg Schiano said “5 yard pass us to death, Taylor isn't running for 200 yards”. Which is exactly how to beat Wisconsin. Joel Stave could at least make you think in the back of your head “what if completes a 50 yard bomb over the safety on 3rd and 3?”, even if he almost never did #TeamJackCoan2018

Obviously the best player on Wisconsin is Johnathan Taylor. A good (200 yards and 2 TDs) probably would've gotten him an invite to New York. Taylor only needs 79 yards to break Adrian Peterson’s rookie record for rushing yards by a freshman. I'd like to also congratulate Corey Clement on having a good rookie year with Eagles, while rubbing it in all the other OTE “writers” faces who thought I was crazy that Clement wasn't a major loss for the Badgers. The biggest difference between this Wisconsin team and others in the past is that there are a number of wide receivers that are athletic (?!?!?!?) and can make plays (?!?!?!?!?!). AJ Taylor, Danny Davis, and Kendric Pryor. Troy Fumagalli and the offensive line are going to do what they always do, but it's going to be on Hornibrook and the wide receivers to make plays to give Taylor running room. If Miami can only put 7 or even 8 in the box, Taylor is going to be a nightmare.

The problem for Wisconsin is that Miami has a great run defense. Yeah everyone talks about the turnover chain (rightfully so, it's awesome and they lead the nation in turnover margin), and I'll bet the house Hornibrook gives them at least one chance to pull it out, but this game is more about whether Miami’s front seven (or ten, because Hornibrook) can slow down Taylor. They only give up 3.5 yards a carry, but this is the best offensive line they've faced besides Clemson, and Clemson just mauled them. It’s also worth noting that the team most similar to Wisconsin that they play stylistically (Pitt), beat them with a large number of Paul Chryst’s recruits. This will be the deciding factor of this game.

When Miami Has the Ball

Wisconsin has the number one defense in terms of total yards per game and has the number two rush defense in the country. This is a very, very good defense. The only problem that was exposed against OSU is that Joe Ferguson is not fast. All the grittiness and time in the film room and being Barry Alvarez’s grandson apparently does not equal running a 4.3 40. Jim Leonhard fixed that problem by basically only using him on the Wisconsin half of the field after he got burned three times, but he also got absolutely ran by three times on three plays that were over half of OSU’s total yards. Were those plays completely his fault? Well no but these are the kind of things that burn in your memory, like Sojourn Shelton getting out jumped on everything against Penn State. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, Miami has the athletes to take advantage of well I don't want to call it a tendency since it's happened in one game against the best team we've played, but I guess a weakness for giving up big plays.

Fortunately for Wisconsin, Miami’s offense hasn't been capable of doing anything on offense the last two games. Malik Rosier is not going to beat you with just his arm, and Miami doesn't have quite the stockpile of athletes that OSU does. I'd be surprised if Miami doesn't break at least one long touchdown, but if Miami can't run the ball, they aren't going to win. Wisconsin's better equipped to win a rock fight than Miami is because, well we’re Wisconsin. Three yards and a cloud of dust is what we do. BUT… for all the swag generally associated with Miami, this is a running team, and they don't need Rosier to throw for 300 yards to win.

Prediction

When I started this article, I was going to predict a Wisconsin loss. It made sense since Miami looks like a bad matchup on paper for Wisconsin’s offense and I did the “eh Wisconsin’s just not talented enough to beat USC” before the Holiday Bowl and was completely wrong so it would put the reverse jinx in play. The more I think about it though, Miami lost to the team that plays the most similarly to Wisconsin that they've played all season (Pitt) and got absolutely destroyed by the only team with the defensive and offensive line talent on par with Wisconsin's (Clemson). Also of note, Paul Chryst’s only loss at Wisconsin with more than 3 weeks of preparation is his first game against Bama where it was clearly just a massive talent gap because Alabama. He's got two wins as an underdog in these games.

Wisconsin​ ​27​ ​Miami​ ​17

Poll

Who wins all the oranges?

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  • 76%
    Wisconsin
    (160 votes)
  • 23%
    Miami
    (48 votes)
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