No. 10 Miami Looks To Defend the “Rock,” In Another Top 15 Matchup Vs. No. 6 Wisconsin: What To Watch
Miami Gardens, FL — The Hurricanes (10-2, 7-1 ACC) and Badgers (12-1, 9-0 Big Ten) will meet for the fifth time Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
Both teams had aspirations for the College Football Playoff but lost their respective conference championships. As a result, these teams will get to solidify their seasons versus a worthy opponent.
The Orange Bowl features the ACC Coach of the Year in Mark Richt and Big Ten Coach of the Year in Paul Chryst. Both coaches are former college quarterbacks, coaching for their respective Alma Maters, with programs featuring Pro-Style Offenses.
Miami is playing in the Orange Bowl for the tenth time in history and the first time since 2003; the Canes have a 6-3 record in the game.
“I hope it’s home field advantage,” Richt said. “I think our fans will come out in big numbers and it will feel like home because it is home for us.”
The Hurricanes will dawn the “Miami Nights” (all black) uniforms for the second time this season.
Wisconsin is playing in their first Orange Bowl; the Big Ten only plays in the Orange Bowl under certain circumstances. The Badgers are looking to springboard into the offseason with a young team, ready to make another playoff run in 2018.
The Turnover Chain Dynamic
With reports this week that Miami’s Turnover Chain will be returning next season, Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said it might come in a different form.
The Turnover Chain captivated college football, making an appearance on all the major TV networks. However, Miami relied too heavily on turnovers to win games, and it caught up with them in the ACC Championship game.
Miami does have a great matchup Saturday night, as the Badgers have turned the ball over 23 times; 15 coming via interception.
The Canes will attempt to slow down Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, forcing quarterback Alex Hornibrook to throw against Miami’s ball-hawking defense.
Wisconsin’s Defense: Good or Great?
The Badgers bring college football’s top defense to the Orange Bowl, giving up just 253 yards per game. Also, Wisconsin has the third-ranked scoring defense (13.2 pts/gm), second-ranked rush defense (92.6 yds/gm), and fourth-ranked pass defense (160.2 yds/gm).
Those statistics are impressive but what about the competition? Wisconsin’s schedule wasn’t daunting by any means.
Their top-two wins were against Iowa and Michigan. Iowa has the nation’s 92nd-ranked pass offense, and 97th ranked rush offense. Michigan has the country’s 112th-ranked pass offense and 40th-ranked rushing attack.
The Badgers loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game; The Buckeyes have the nation’s 28th-ranked passing attack and 15th-ranked run offense.
But it’ll be tough sledding for the Hurricanes Saturday night. Especially with Miami missing top receiver Ahmmon Richards and top tight-end Chris Herndon, both out with knee injuries.
Slowing Down Jonathan Taylor
Taylor is the next great running back for Wisconsin. He was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award and finished sixth in the voting for Heisman Trophy. His 1,847 rushing yards ranks third in the country and needs only 79 yards to break Adrian Peterson’s freshman rushing record.
Ohio State did an excellent job of containing Taylor in his worst performance of the season, 41 yards on 15 carries.
Miami will look to do the same, loading the box and making Wisconsin throw more than they want to. The Canes give up 146.1 yards on the ground; they cannot let the Badgers gain significant yardage on first down. If they do, it’ll be a long night for Miami.
Taylor averages 21 carries per game coming into the Orange Bowl, look for the Badgers to pound the ball for 35 plus carries with the freshman running back. They don’t want to test Miami’s secondary too often.
Most noteworthy, the Canes want to get Wisconsin in third and long, Miami leads the nation in sacks per game (3.58).
Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier had a great start to the season in his first year the starter. A 9-0 record with 23 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and five touchdowns on the ground.
But over the past two games, two losses, 46 percent completion percentage, and two interceptions in the ACC Championship Game.
He’s been on and off all season with his accuracy; it cost him to be benched for a series in the game against Pitt.
Saturday he’ll be without Richards and Herndon, who combined for 914 yards and seven touchdowns before they were injured. Rosier will rely on youth from freshman receivers Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley; he’ll have some size in receivers Darrell Langham and Lawrence Cager.
This is a tough matchup for Rosier, Wisconsin’s has played lights out on defense, and their pass defense is superb. He must be accurate with the football, especially on third down. The Hurricanes have the 124th-ranked third down offense out of 129 teams.
If Rosier leads Miami to a victory, it’ll springboard him into the offseason with the hope of starting for Miami next season.
Prediction: Vegas has Wisconsin as a 4.5 point favorite, but they’ve been off at an alarming rate all bowl season. The Badgers are built like Notre Dame; a team Miami handled easily at Hard Rock Stadium. The Canes will have a similar game plan, slowing Taylor down making Honribrook throw often. Hornibrook already has 15 interceptions, expect at least two more as Miami wins a low-scoring defensive battle.
Miami 20 – Wisconsin 18