In a weird twist of fate, last season’s Orange Bowl will have a rematch. This year, however, the game will be held in New York for the Pinstripe Bowl. The Wisconsin Badgers opened the year as the number four team in the preseason while the Miami Hurricanes were eighth. In addition to both teams not meeting the preseason expectation, the teams’ records are identical.
Both teams have also lost key players for various reasons that have impacted their season. Zander Neuville was expected to help replace tight end Troy Fumaglli, but was injured in the season opener. Quintez Cephus was suspended for the entire year and the Badgers receiving core hasn’t been able to replace his production. Miami has felt their own attrition this year losing two-star receivers in Ahmon Richards and Jeff Thomas.
Last year’s matchup saw Alex Hornibrook set his career high in passing yards against the Hurricanes defense. This season he has looked like a shell of his former self, struggling with injuries and interceptions. However, someone that hasn’t struggled is sophomore tailback, Jonathan Taylor. In 12 games, Taylor surpassed his legendary freshman numbers and is 11 yards away from 2,000 yards on the season. With the improvements in production, he’s also worked on his fumbling problems and only has two this season.
Freshman tight end Jake Ferguson has helped a struggling passing attack and is second on the team in receptions. Danny Davis is the leading receiver on the team and had his best game last season against the Hurricanes. Although the offense has its struggles, the offensive line is still intact and has four players that earned All-Big Ten honor.
Miami’s offense has been a rollercoaster this season with the musical chairs at quarterback. However, it is now N’Kosi Perry‘s job and time to show what he can do. Last season the Badgers harrassed Malik Rosier into throwing three interceptions and will look to duplicate its performance. Perry will have to show improvement from the season finale where he completed just five passes on 20 attempts. In addition to losing his favorite target Jeff Thomas who opted to depart from the team during the season.
Miami was successful in last year’s bowl game against Wisconsin with the rushing attack. DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer both were able to score touchdowns against the Badgers. Miami will look to find some consistency from its wideouts, specifically Lawrence Cager who also scored in last year’s matchup.
One of the key reasons for the Badgers stepback this season was replacing seven starters on defense from last season. However senior leader at linebacker T.J. Edwards returns with Ryan Connelly to guide the team’s defense. This season, the Badgers defense has given up more than 30 points on four occasions. The amount of turnovers and tackles for loss has decreased significantly as well.
Despite the overall team record, Miami’s defense has played consistently well all season. Gerald Willis is enjoying an All-American type season and is projected to be a first-round pick. The secondary, led by Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine, has steered the Hurricanes to have the top pass defense in the country. Miami will be highly motivated to send the seniors out in a better fashion than last season’s Orange Bowl.
Having already played against Taylor, Manny Diaz and staff will be highly prepared for what is to come against the Badgers. Despite that the Hurricanes still have to stop a potent rushing attack in a cold climate.
The two teams have many similarities but also some stark differences. If Miami’s youth on offense can grow during the bowl practices, this could be a preview of what is to come in 2019. Paul Chryst outcoached Mark Richt in the previous matchup, slowing the pace of the game after the Hurricanes jumped out to a 14-3 lead. Miami will have to once again try to win using speed against the power of the Badgers.
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