Badgers, 'Canes meet in Champs Sports Bowl

By: Jimmy Sirody | Monday, December 28, 2009

John Clay scored nine TDs on the ground in Wisconsin's final five games.

At first glance the Champs Sports Bowl between Miami and Wisconsin Tuesday night in Orlando seems like a duel of speed versus power. Granted, the Hurricanes have speed to burn, but the Badgers are far from an old school Big Ten team.

Perhaps the closest thing to a pro-style offense as there is in college football, Wisconsin put up an impressive 32.8 points per game this season. UW found stability behind quarterback Scott Tolzien and now runs an incredibly balanced offense that includes Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay.

The Badgers averaged 206.7 yards per game in the air and 209.2 yards per game on the ground.

Wisconsin has scored at least 31 in its last five games since back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Iowa, the two best teams UW faced this season. In two games after bye weeks, the Badgers scored 37 points against Purdue and 51 points against Hawaii.

The arrival of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and the maturation of sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris helped transform Miami into the ACC’s third-ranked offense at 413.5 yards and 31.7 points per game.

Despite throwing a league-leading 17 interceptions, the slender Harris still managed to finish second in the conference at 273 passing yards per game while throwing for 22 touchdowns and a 60.4 percent accuracy rate.

Miami’s team speed will be a challenge, but Wisconsin should be able to generate pressure with O’Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt.

Wisconsin catches a big break with All-ACC left tackle Jason Fox missing the game after knee surgery. The rest of the line is pretty good, but the loss of Fox is a huge blow for Miami.

The Badgers line will have to create pressure because their mediocre secondary will be tested by Harris, who has a trio of talented receivers in Jeremy Hankerson, La Ron Byrd and Travis Benjamin. Harris connected with Hankerson and Benjamin a combined 72 times for 18 yards per catch.

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Clay has to crack the century mark on the ground if UW is going to spring the upset.  He failed to gain over 100 yards in each of the Badgers’ three losses. However, Miami allowed just 3.5 yards per carry.

The Canes’ limited Georgia Tech to 95 yards rushing on 39 carries and took the run away from Clemson and C.J. Spiller, holding the Tigers to 84 yards rushing on 34 carries.

The Badgers are 1-10 ATS versus good rushing defenses that allowed less than 120 yards per game.

After Miami was torched for 555 total yards by Wake Forest, coordinator John Lovett’s defense didn’t allow any of its opponents from that point to score more than one offensive touchdown.

Wisconsin has been a dog in seven straight bowl games, going 3-4 SU and 4-3 ATS. Dogs are on a 7-3 run in the Badgers’ last 10 postseason appearances and short-enders are 6-1 in Miami’s last seven bowl games.

The Hurricanes have faltered in three of their last four as postseason favorites and Wisconsin sports an identical 1-3 spread mark in its last four pre-New Year’s Day outings.

Miami has ended on the low side at a 7-2-1 clip in its last 10 bowl battles.

Most offshore books opened the Hurricanes as 1 ½-point favorites, with the ‘total’ set at 56 ½.

ESPN has Tuesday's telecast from the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando starting at 5:00 p.m. (PT).

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