Dec. 25, 2009
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
Series: Miami leads 2-1 Last Meeting: Sept. 8, 1989: Miami (Fla.) 51, Wisconsin 3
Wisconsin will make its second straight appearance in the Champs Sports Bowl, the program's sixth straight trip to Florida for a postseason contest. The Badgers will kick off a four-day celebration of Big Ten football in Orlando when they square off against Miami (Fla.) to be followed by Penn State playing in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.
Wisconsin will face the Hurricanes for the fourth time, including a victory in 1958 and losses in 1988 and 1989. The Badgers return to Florida after playing in the Champs Sports, Outback or Capital One Bowls after each of the last five seasons. Head coach Bret Bielema will make his fourth bowl appearance in as many seasons at the helm, including a victory in the 2007 Capital One Bowl. Wisconsin will take part in a program-record eighth straight bowl game, breaking the previous record of five consecutive bowl bids set from 1996-2000. The school has played in 20 overall bowl games with a 10-10 record.
The Big Ten has produced a record of 1-4 in the Champs Sports Bowl, including a victory by Illinois in 1999 when it was known as the Micronpc.com Bowl.
Miami is ranked 14th in the country and looking to eclipse the 10-win mark for the first time since 2003. The Hurricanes began the season unranked, but vaulted to No. 9 earlier in the season and has captured four of its last five games for head coach Randy Shannon. Miami lost to California 24-17 in last year's Emerald Bowl and has not won a bowl game since 2006. The Hurricanes have not faced a Big Ten opponent since losing to Ohio State in double overtime of the BCS Championship game in the conclusion to the 2002 season.
Like Miami, Wisconsin claimed four of its last five games and averaged 39.0 points per contest over that span. That average was inflated with a 51-10 dismissal of Hawaii in the Badgers' season finale on Dec. 5. UW, which finished atop the Big Ten in scoring offense (32.8), was impressive running the ball this season, ranking 14th nationally with 206.7 rushing yards per game. Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay leads the potent Badger backfield with 1,369 yards and 16 touchdowns on the year and was the only conference rusher to average more than 100 yards per game (116.3). Wisconsin also led the league with 31 rushing touchdowns in 2009. When the Badgers are forced to put the ball in the air, they do so with impressive accuracy. Scott Tolzien completed 63.6 percent of his 302 passes this season - a percentage that ranked second-best among Big Ten quarterbacks, while ranking seventh in the league with 203.8 passing yards per game. Tolzien, who threw 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, finished with a 142.4 QB efficiency rating that rated third in the conference this season. Wideout Nick Toon hauled in 64.9 receiving yards and 4.33 receptions per game this year, which ranked fifth and seventh in the conference, respectively.
Defensively, Miami is allowing 22.3 points and 321.2 total yards per game, which ranked 25th nationally, and held the ACC's third-best mark against the run, giving up only 118.3 yards each week. Additionally, the Hurricanes gave up the fewest rushing touchdowns (8) in the ACC this year, which should present quite a challenge for Clay and the Badgers. The "U" ranked fifth in the conference against the pass (202.9) and only managed eight interceptions on the season, which was tied for the ACC's lowest total for a conference team. The defense accounted for 23 sacks this year - seventh-best in the league - and recorded a minus-2 turnover margin, which ranked eighth. Linebackers Darryl Sharpton and Colin McCarthy finished seventh and 10th in the ACC with 7.6 and 7.2 tackles per game, respectively. Junior Allen Bailey recorded 7.0 sacks and 11.0 tackles for loss on the year to lead the Hurricanes' front line.
Look for a great matchup in the red zone as the Badgers' offense paced the Big Ten with a scoring rate of 94.2 percent (49-of-52, 40 TDs), while Miami's defense was third in the ACC by allowing opponents in just 80.0 percent (28-of-35, 12 TDs) of the time.
The Hurricanes ranked amongst the ACC's top five on offense this season, whether they were rushing (144.4, 4th) or throwing (268.1, 5th) the football. Overall, they posted 412.5 yards of total offense, which ranked third, scored the conference's third-most touchdowns (44), while rating third in scoring offense (31.7). Much of the offensive success has been due to sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris, who was 15th in the country this year with 3,164 passing yards. Harris has been known to be inconsistent at times as his 17 interceptions - a nation high - often overshadowed his 23 touchdowns. Graig Cooper led the Hurricanes on the ground with 666 rushing yards and an average of 60.5 yards per game, which was seventh-best in the ACC. Damien Berry recorded 587 yards on the ground and a team-high eight touchdowns. When looking to throw, Harris will be eyeing Leonard Hankerson, who hauled in 44 passes for 773 yards and six touchdowns on the year, while averaging 64.4 yards per game. Depending on the Badgers' defense in the game, Harris could find open receivers or a host of Badgers awaiting interceptions.
Wisconsin's defense was 18th in the country this season with 310.4 yards allowed each game, but gave up 219.9 in the air, which rated 66th. UW gave up 7.4 yards per catch - the third-highest mark in the Big Ten - but also found a way to record 15 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries for a plus-5 turnover margin that ranked tied for third in the league as well. Senior Chris Maragos ranked tied for fourth in the conference with four picks on the season. The Badgers also posted 32 sacks this year, led by O'Brien Schofield's 10.0 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. Freshman Chris Borland forced five fumbles, which ranked second in the Big Ten, while teammate Jaevery McFadden led the team with 5.8 tackles per game.