Outback Bowl Preview




Dec. 30, 2007

TUESDAY, JANUARY 1
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
11 a.m. ET - ESPN

Big Ten Bowl Trip: Outback Bowl

WISCONSIN: Web | Roster | Stats
Tennessee: Web | Roster | Schedule | Stats

WIS
 
TENN
 
Scoring
30.5
Pts./ Game
33.4
23.3
Pts. Allowed/ Game
28.1
33:39
Time of Possession
28:30
Rushing
201.5
Yds/Game
144.6
139.8
Yds Allowed/ Game
162.5
28
TDs
18
Passing
212.4
Yds/ Game
254.6
210.7
Yds Allowed/ Game
245.1
185-322
Completions/Attempts
308-491
57.5
Completion %
62.7
16/10
TDs/ INTs
31/12
Turnovers
18
Takeaways
23
19
Giveaways
17

THE SERIES
Overall: Tennessee, 1-0
Last Time Out: 1981 - Tennessee, 28-21
Noteworthy: The only time these two schools have met was in the postseason with the Volunteers topping the Badgers in the 1981 Garden State Bowl.

STAT SPEAK
In what might be the most evenly balanced matchup of teams in the 2007-08 bowl season, Wisconsin will attempt to win its 10th game with a victory over Tennessee. The No. 18 Badgers have had luck with SEC teams the past two postseasons, topping Auburn and Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl. Now they will face No. 16 Tennessee, which fell to Penn State last year in the Outback Bowl, 20-10.

Wisconsin is 9-3 on the season, while Tennessee is 9-4. Both teams finished 7-0 on their respective home fields and boast a similar losing record on the road. Each squad averages over 400 yards per game, throws for 200-plus, likes to have rushing performances around the same 200-yard mark and goes for 30 points or more each time out. Both teams have remarkably similar winning percentages in close games decided by seven points or less, just as they do in 20-point blowouts.

The Badgers make their third Outback Bowl appearance, but first against a team not named Georgia. UW lost to the Bulldogs 33-6 in 1998 and 24-21 in 2005. With a win Wisconsin would earn its seventh 10-win season in the 118-year history of the program and the sixth since 1993.

On the other hand, Volunteer head coach Phillip Fulmer has not had a 10-win season since 2004, but a victory would mark his ninth since taking over the team in 1992. Fulmer was not around just yet when these two teams held their first and only meeting. The Volunteers, who are making their 47th bowl appearance, topped UW in the 1981 Garden State Bowl, 28-21.

WISCONSIN ON OFFENSE
In regards to the comparisons made above, the lone advantage for either team on paper was in the running game, which favored the Badgers. However, P.J. Hill, Wisconsin's leading rusher with 1,080 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games, did not see much action in the final two games of the regular seasons with a leg injury. UW head coach Bret Bielema is not optimistic that he will play in the bowl. That leaves room for Zach Brown, who rushed for 539 yards in 11 games this season and Lance Smith and his 58.0-yard average. The injury bug hit the receiving core this season as well, with primary target Luke Swan being lost early in the year. Quarterback Tyler Donovan, who ranked seventh in league passing at 204.3 yards per game, was fourth in Big Ten pass efficiency with a 135.2 rating and helped turn junior Travis Beckum into the big-play receiver UW needed. Beckum averaged 13.2 yards per catch and was fourth in the conference with 80.0 yards per game. UW was second in the Big Ten in rushing (201.5), fifth in total offense (413.9), and sixth in passing (212.4) and scoring (30.5).

TENNESSEE ON DEFENSE
While points could be hard to come by for Wisconsin if Hill is out, Tennessee has been known to allow some touchdowns this year, ranking just 10th in the SEC with 28.1 points give up each game. The Volunteers rank 11th in SEC pass defense as well, allowing a league-high 24 touchdowns through the air and 245.1 yards per game. UT is a little better against the rush, but not by much. The SEC's ninth-best rush defense gave up 162.5 yards per outing this year. Overall, Tennessee ranked 11th in the conference with 407.6 yards allowed each game. The Volunteers have given up an SEC-worst 284 opponent first downs and allowed them to score 88 percent of the time in the red zone, the second-highest rate in the league. Freshman Eric Berry snatched five of the team's 15 interceptions this season, while junior linebacker Jerod Mayo was the conference's third-best tackler with 9.8 stops per game. Sophomore linebacker Rico McCoy also added 8.2 tackles every outing.

TENNESSEE ON OFFENSE
The Volunteers are much more stable on the offensive side of the ball statistically, although quarterback Erik Ainge threw a costly interception in the SEC title game against LSU which most likely cost Tennessee a BCS bid. In addition, offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe was hired on Dec. 15 to take over at Duke, but he will remain with UT on New Year's Day. On the season, Ainge threw for 3,157 yards, averaging 242.8 yards per game, the third-best total in the SEC. He added 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and was also the league's third-most efficient QB. His primary targets are Lucas Taylor and Austin Rogers. Taylor boasts an even 1,000 receiving yards on the season and an average of 76.9 per game, while Rogers hauls in 45.2 yards each time out. On the ground the Vols are led by Arian Foster, the conference's fourth-leading rusher at 89.4 yards per game. His 1,162 yards and 12 TDs made him the school's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. As a team, UT ranks fourth in the conference in passing (254.6), fifth in scoring (33.4) and total offense (399.2), and ninth in rushing (144.6).

WISCONSIN ON DEFENSE
Wisconsin was one of the Big Ten's top teams against the pass this season, ranking third by allowing only 210.7 yards per game. Sophomore Shane Carter led the Big Ten and tied for fourth in the country with seven interceptions, while junior Jack Ikegwuonu ranked second in the conference and 17th nationally with an average of 1.33 passes defended each game. Junior linebacker Jonathan Cassillas was 14th among conference tacklers with 7.2 stops per game, helping a rush defense that ranked sixth in the conference at 139.8 yards per game. Overall, the Badgers were fifth in total defense, allowing 413.9 yards per game, roughly 15 yards more than Tennessee averages on offense. The UW defense also gave up 215 opponent first downs this season, a total that was the fourth-fewest in the Big Ten. By contrast, the Vols ranked fourth in the SEC with 275 first downs earned.

KEYS TO A BADGER WIN
If Hill is in fact sidelined, the Badgers will obviously need strong performances from Brown and Smith in the backfield, but Donovan and Beckum will be forced to carry the load. UW must contain Ainge and limit his yardage through the air. He is a pocket quarterback who does not run well away from defensive pressure. If the UW line can penetrate the line of scrimmage, it should translate into more carries for Foster, a guy Wisconsin has to shut down.