Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic Preview

Dec. 29, 2016

Wisconsin will be making its 15th-consecutive bowl bid this season when it faces Western Michigan in the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, a part of the College Football Payoff New Year’s Six bowl lineup. The Badgers will face the Broncos at 1 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with ESPN carrying the broadcast.

No. 8 Wisconsin, the Big Ten West Division champion, enters the game 10-3 overall and coming off its fourth appearance in six seasons in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Badgers are led by Big Ten Coach of the Year Paul Chryst, who is just the fourth coach in league history to begin his career at a school with consecutive 10-win seasons. The game will mark Wisconsin's seventh matchup this season with a team ranked among the top 12 of the Associated Press poll. This marks UW's first appearance in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, which dates back to 1937. The Badgers' run of 15 straight bowl games is the longest active streak in the Big Ten and is tied for the sixth-longest active run in the FBS. Wisconsin has ended each of the last two seasons with a win, downing Auburn in the Outback Bowl to close the 2014 season and topping USC in the Holiday Bowl to finish off the 2015 campaign.

No. 15 Western Michigan has an undefeated 13-0 record this season and is the Mid-American Conference Champions. WMU's appearance in the Cotton Bowl will be its first in school history and third-straight bowl appearance under head coach P.J. Fleck. It marks just the second time in the history of the conference a MAC team has been selected for a New Year's Six bowl game.

Wisconsin and Western Michigan have met four times, with the Badgers owning a 3-1 mark against the Broncos. The teams last met in 2000, when No. 4 Wisconsin scored a 19-7 win at Camp Randall Stadium.

This marks the third-consecutive season – but just the fourth time ever – that the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic will include a Big Ten team. Michigan State played in the Cotton Bowl in each of the last two seasons, including when the game served as a College Football Playoff semifinal last year. Ohio State made the league's first appearance in the Cotton Bowl in 1987. Maryland, Nebraska and Penn State also have participated in the Cotton Bowl, though prior to joining the Big Ten.


 

 

QUICKIE
STATS

Scoring
Offense

Scoring Defense

Total Offense

Total Defense

Rushing Offense

Rushing Defense

Passing Offense

Passing Defense

Turnover Margin

WISCONSIN

28.7

15.5

383.7

303.0

204.5

96.9

179.2

206.1

+11

W. MICHIGAN

43.5

19.5

496.7

353.0

237.0

151.2

259.7

201.8

+19

Wisconsin’s offense ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rushing (204.5), fifth in scoring (28.7), and ninth in passing (179.2) and total yards (383.7). Nationally, the Badgers rank first in time of possession (35:20), just ahead of fourth-place Western Michigan (34:21). Contributing to UW’s success on the ground and the clock is senior running back Corey Clement, who ranks second in the Big Ten with 108.7 yards per game to go with 14 rushing touchdowns. Clement has topped the 100-yard mark in five straight contests and in seven of the last eight games. The first-team All-Conference standout helped the Badgers scorch Penn State’s rush defense for 241 yards in the Big Ten Championship Game. While Clement has been the go-to guy in the backfield, Wisconsin has turned to a pair of quarterbacks to help direct UW’s offense this year. Redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook (1,243) and senior Bart Houston (1,086) have become the team’s first quarterback tandem to each throw for 1,000 yards in a season since 2001, when both Brooks Bollinger (1,257) and Jim Sorgi (1,096) hit that mark. Junior wide receiver Jazz Peavy is the Badgers' leading receiver, having earned honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades with 43 receptions for 635 yards and five touchdowns. He also has 18 rushes for 269 yards. Junior tight end Troy Fumagalli was a second-team All-Conference pick, having ranked second on the team with 41 catches for 497 yards. Up front the Badgers are led by first-team All-America tackle Ryan Ramczyk, second-team guard Beau Benzschawel, and honorable mention center Michael Deiter.

The Broncos rate first in the MAC in scoring defense (19.5) and total defense (353.0), while ranking third in defending the pass (201.8) and fourth against the rush (151.2). Western Michigan’s scoring defense also rates 16th in the country. In addition, the Broncos rate second nationally with a plus-19 turnover margin, 14th with 15 interceptions, 19th with 11 fumble recoveries, and 25th in total defense. Two-time All-MAC selection Asantay Brown helps guide the defensive unit, having earned postseason recognition as a safety last year and as a linebacker this year. He has 83 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception. After suffering a season-ending injury last year, All-MAC linebacker Robert Spillane leads the Broncos in tackles with 105 and has 9.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Defensive end Keion Adams provides the pass rush with a league-best 17.0 tackles for loss and a team-high 7.5 sacks. He also has 12 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles on the year.

Western Michigan ranks first in the MAC in scoring (43.5), second in total offense (496.7), rushing (237.0), and fourth in passing (259.7). On the national scene, the Broncos rank first in turnovers lost (7) and fewest interceptions (3), third in team passing efficiency (180.05), completion percentage (.706), and red zone offense (.954), fifth in tackles for loss allowed per game (4.15), eighth in scoring, and 11th in sacks allowed per game (1.08). They are also second in the country in both third-down (.542) and fourth-down (.867) conversion percentage. Senior quarterback Zach Terrell has led the Broncos to the best season offensively speaking in program history, scoring a record 566 points, shattering the record set last season of 482. He has 32 touchdowns and three interceptions, the best TD-INT ratio in FBS recorded history. For the season he is 247-of-349 passing for 3,376 yards, and recently set the school’s career passing record with 11,657 yards. First-team All-MAC linemen Taylor Moton and Chukwuma Okorafor provide the protection up front along with second-team selection John Keenoy, which marks the first time Western Michigan has had three linemen earn All-MAC accolades since 1990. Jarvion Franklin, the former MAC Freshman and Offensive Player of the Year, netted a school-record 281 rushing yards against Akron earlier this year and has scored 12 times on the ground, giving him a school-record 41 for his career. The Badgers secondary will have to lock down MAC Offensive Player of the Year Corey Davis, who currently leads the FBS in receiving touchdowns with 18 and is seventh in receiving yards with 1,427. Terrell’s primary target averages 7.0 receptions and 109.8 receiving yards per game, which both rank among the nation’s top-15 marks. From a career standpoint, Davis is simply the best, as he is the all-time leading receiver in FBS history with 5,212 yards. The four-time All-MAC player is the first player in FBS history with 300 receptions, 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a career, and also the first wideout to record four seasons of 900-plus yards.

Wisconsin is one of the nation’s top defensive units. The Badgers rank second against the rush (96.9), third in third-down defense (26.8), fourth in scoring (15.5), seventh in total defense (298.3), eighth in turnover margin (+11), and 11th in pass efficiency defense (106.8). They are 36th in defending the pass (206.1), but rank second with 21 interceptions on the season. In fact, with senior safety Leo Musso (5), junior safety D’Cota Dixon (4) and first-team All-Big Ten senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton (4), Wisconsin is the only Power Five program in the country to have three players with at least four interceptions this season. Junior cornerback Derrick Tindal is just shy of that club, having picked off three passes to go along with 11 pass breakups on the year. All-America linebacker T.J. Watt ranks second in the conference with 10.5 sacks and tied for seventh in the league with 14.5 tackles for loss. Sophomore linebacker T.J. Edwards is the team’s top tackler with79 stops, 8.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks on the year.

On special teams, Western Michigan’s Darius Phillips is the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year, having returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown this season. He ranks ninth nationally in punt return yardage (12.3) and 54th in kickoff returns (22.7). For his career, Phillips has 2,447 kickoff return yards, fifth most in MAC history. This season, Phillips' 818 kickoff return yards are seventh best in a single season at Western Michigan. Senior punter James Coleman is ninth in the MAC in punting (40.2), while freshman Butch Hampton has made 18-of-23 field goals (.783) and leads the MAC in kick scoring with 124 points this year. Wisconsin allows 7.6 and 20.1 yards on punt and kick returns, respectively, and produces 6.8 and 19.8 yards in those same categories. Andrew Endicott has made 12-of-18 field goals (.667), while his teammate Anthony Lotti ranks 14th in the league in punting (37.5).