Orange Bowl preview: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Miami
Wisconsin had its hopes set on making the playoff for the first time, but the loss to Ohio State—the Badgers’ first of the season after a 12-0 start–in the Big Ten title game killed those dreams. But landing in the Orange Bowl vs. Miami offers a good opportunity to close the season with a victory vs. a marquee foe in what essentially will be a home game for the Hurricanes, who call the Orange Bowl home.
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The Hurricanes’ can sympathize with Wisconsin, as Miami lost to Clemson in the ACC championship game to nix the Canes’ playoff dreams. In fact, Miami will bring a two-game skid into the Orange Bowl having also lost at Pitt prior to the defeat to Clemson after Miami began the year 10-0, the first time since 2003 that the Hurricanes have won 10 games.
Still, this has been a special season for both programs, as Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst and Miami’s Mark Richt both won coach of the year honors in their respective leagues. This will be the fifth all-time meeting between the schools and second in a bowl game. The series is tied 2-2; the Badgers won the last head-to-head matchup, 20-14, in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.
It will be Wisconsin’s first appearance in the Orange Bowl, but it will be its second straight appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl, having defeated Western Michigan, 24-16, in the Cotton Bowl last year. UW last missed a bowl in 2001, as this will be Wisconsin’s 16th straight bowl appearance, which is the longest active streak among Big Ten teams and is the second-longest Big Ten streak of all-time. The Badgers made 13 bowl games in their history before this current streak.
Miami’s appearance in the Orange Bowl marks the 41st time in school history the Hurricanes have competed in a bowl but the first time in a New Year’s Six game, which began as part of the College Football Playoff in 2014. Miami is playing in the Orange Bowl for the 10th time in program history; the Hurricanes own a 6-3 all-time record in the game, including a 16-14 win over Florida State in their last trip to the Orange Bowl after the 2003 season.
After starting 10-0, Miami’s offense has been non-existent in their two losses. The Hurricanes have been outscored 62-17 in the aforementioned losses to Pitt and Clemson. They averaged just 223 total yards and 75 rushing yards per game in those games. QB Malik Rosier’s play has been a big issue. In those two losses, he hit just 46 percent of his passes and was sacked seven times. The sledding won’t be any easier facing a Wisconsin defense that is No. 1 in the nation (253.2 ypg) and No. 2 vs. the run (92.6 ypg).
Who: Wisconsin (12-1) vs. Miami (10-2)
When: 8 p.m. ET, Dec. 30
Where: Orange Bowl, Miami
Player on the spot: Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook. The sophomore’s consistency issues have been well-documented for a sometimes middling Badger passing game that averages 187.0 yards. Hornibrook is hitting 61 percent of his passes for 2,386 yards and 21 TDs. But the lefty also has tossed 15 picks. He must limit mistakes and hit some passes down field so the Badgers can loosen a Miami defense that figures to be geared to stop the run.
Best individual matchup: Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor vs. Miami LB Shaquille Quarterman. Taylor has a chance to pass one of the all-time greats with a good performance in the Orange Bowl, entering the matchup with 1,847 rushing yards on the season. That is just 78 yards shy of Adrian Peterson’s single-season FBS freshman record. But Quarterman will track Taylor, and you can count on Hurricane DC Manny Diaz having a few wrinkles to throw at Taylor and the Wisconsin offense. The Miami D and its turnover chain have been a big story in college football in 2017. The Canes are No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin (plus 17) and sacks (3.6 per game) and No. 2 in TFLs (8.6 per game).
Best unit matchup: Miami defensive line vs. Wisconsin offensive line. The Hurricanes are stout vs. the run, allowing 146.1 yards per game, just 10 rushing TDs and 3.5 yards per carry. The guys to watch along the Miami front seven are DT RJ McIntosh, DE Trent Harris, DT Kendrick Norton, LB Shaquille Quarterman and LB Michael Pinckney. They will be put to the test vs. a Badger attack that ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing (229.2 ypg), averaging 5.1 yards per tote with 28 TDs. The bellwethers along the Badger line are G Beau Benzschawel and Ts Michael Deiter and David Edwards.
Number: 13, number of wins Wisconsin will have with a triumph in the Orange Bowl. In 128 years of playing football, Wisconsin has never won 13 games in a season.