The Capital One Orange Bowl game will feature two teams that surpassed expectations this season. Both Wisconsin and Miami are similar in the sense that few recognized them as being true contenders for the College Football Playoffs. Wisconsin lost its first game in the Big Ten Championship, meanwhile, Miami lost back to back games after winning ten straight.
Defensively, both teams are among the best in the country. For the Wisconsin Badgers, there have only been two opponents that have scored 20 points or more all season. The Miami Hurricanes defense is third in FBS football forcing 30 turnovers this year. Both teams are coming off losses in their championship games and seek to finish the season with a strong win.
First Year Phenoms
The Wisconsin Badgers have not made it a secret that their offense is generated behind freshman running back Jonathan Taylor. The true freshman is 153 yards away from eclipsing 2,000 rushing yards in his first collegiate season. He stands 79 yards away from breaking the freshman record set by former Oklahoma great Adrian Peterson. There have only been four games this season where the true freshman has failed to break the 100-yard marker rushing.
For the Miami Hurricanes, Malik Rosier has been a surprise in his first season starting. The Alabama native has thrown for 25 touchdowns and rushed for another five scores. The Hurricanes offense lost star running back Mark Walton early in the season, but Travis Homer picked up the offense back up. The sophomore has rushed for 907 yards in his first season starting and was impressive enough to be named 2nd team All-ACC. The Hurricanes offense looks at its best when Homer is the focal point, it also opens it up for others.
Defense On Display
The battle to see which defense makes the most plays will be interesting to watch. For Wisconsin, the front seven is spearheaded mainly by two linebackers. T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly combine for 155 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and five sacks. With those two anchoring the middle of the defense, it’s easy to see why teams have such a problem scoring.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard also does a good job of bringing the pressure. This season so far, 14 different players have been credited with a sack. On the other sideline features some standouts as well. The Miami Hurricanes feature five players that have ten or more tackles for loss. Linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Mike Pinckney will be needed in containing Taylor. Although Wisconsin’s strength isn’t passing the ball, the Badgers do possess a stud tight end in Troy Fumagalli. Look for Miami to counter using their best player in the secondary, safety Jaquan Johnson, to line up with Fumagalli.
Scheme vs. Speed
Miami has a couple advantages in this game, due to the fact that it is being played in Miami. On the field however, the biggest advantage the Hurricanes can use is their team speed. Offensively, the ‘Canes have to love their matchup with Braxton Berrios against the Badgers secondary. Defensively the Hurricanes need to swarm to the ball to not let Taylor break off big runs.
For the Badgers, the 3-4 scheme in which they play on defense allows them to blitz any player from any position. Finding out what players may be blitzing before the ball is snapped will be key for Rosier. Offensively for the Badgers, the run game will need to be played inside the tackles rather than the perimeter. Time of possession is an advantage for Wisconsin because of the frequency in which they run the ball, Taylor has shown he can be a workhorse. Controlling the clock will also keep the crowd at Hard Rock Stadium out of the game, preventing a situation like the Notre Dame game.
Regardless of the result of the game, both teams will be highly ranked going into next season. Jonathan Taylor is sure to receive Heisman hype next season, coming off an impressive freshman year. The Hurricanes will also be returning Homer and Rosier on top of a ballyhooed recruiting class. They look to be tested early as the ‘Canes open up the season against LSU.
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