The NCAA postseason kicks off December 19, with 33 games being played in a three week span.
Seniors will get their last hurrah, and teams will attempt to end their season on the winning side, in the hopes of improving recruiting that follows afterwords. The Sportmeisters will preview each of the 33 games that lie ahead, and provide our predictions as well. Let’s get to it!
Champs Sports Bowl, December 29th, 8:00 PM, Orlando, FL
No. 15 Miami (9-3) vs. No. 25 Wisconsin (9-3)
About Miami : Four games, four weeks, four ranked teams. Many thought 2-2 would have been deemed a success for a Miami squad still looking to get back to their position as “The U.”
The Hurricanes had different plans, winning three of four against those ranked opponents to start their season 3-1. Two winnable games that turned into upsets put a sour taste in Hurricanes fans mouths, but at 9-3, I don’t think too many people are complaining.
Miami is 27th in scoring offense in NCAA FBS (31.67 points per game), mainly behind the arm of Sophomore QB Jacory Harris. He threw for 3167 yards and 23 touchdowns, thanks to the arrival of new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Harris did have his problems, however, throwing 16 interceptions on the season. Junior WR Leonard Hankerson led the team with 44 catches for 773 yards and six touchdowns.
Miami’s defense was always a thing of magic, garnering respect from national writers year in and year out. This year, Miami was stellar again, finishing 25th in total defense (321.25 yards per game). Junior DL Allen Bailey was a huge performer, racking up 32 tackles (11 for loss), seven sacks, and forcing two fumbles.
Senior LB Darryl Sharpton brought back memories of playmakers like Ray Lewis, with 91 tackles (seven for loss), two forced fumbles, and a returned interception for a touchdown. The Hurricanes are a young team, but possess all the natural abilities to win every week.
About Wisconsin : The Badgers started off hot, winning five in a row to give them a realistic shot at the Big Ten title. Two straight losses to Ohio State and Iowa derailed that, but Wisconsin bounced back to win four of the next five to finish 9-3.
Wisconsin uses a grinding, punishing attack on the ground to win. They rushed for 206.67 yards a game (14th in NCAA FBS) in 2009. Despite a clock killing mentality, they still put up 32.75 points a game (21st in NCAA FBS). Sophomore RB John Clay fit in perfectly with Wisconsin’s system. He rushed for 1396 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his last five games.
Junior QB Scott Tolzien benefits from a run heavy offense. Defenses usually fall prey when they load up against the run, and it showed in Tolzien’s 2445 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Defense is usually a specialty in the Big Ten, and Wisconsin emulates that mold as well. They finished 19th in total defense (310.42 yards a game) and eighth in rushing defense (90.50 yards a game).
Senior DL O’Brien Schofield is the unequivocal leader of the defense, with 59 tackles (22.5 for loss), 10 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Outside of Schofield, the Badgers don’t have any specific defensive leader, but all contribute to a solid performing defense.
The Matchup : Miami is 18-14 in bowl games. This is their second straight year in a bowl game, losing last season in the Emerald Bowl against California.
Wisconsin is 10-10. They’ve lost two in a row, including last year’s Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State. This is the first showdown between the two teams in 20 years. Miami holds the series lead, 2-1.
Both teams run different style of offense that they can exploit the opposing defense with. Wisconsin’s punishing ground attack and its mixed passing game (heavy play-action), should be able to find holes in Miami’s defense.
Consequently, Miami’s ability to air it out should reign havoc on Wisconsin’s so-so pass defense. If Miami can get a lead early, it could force Wisconsin to abandon the run game. However, if they keep in it, they could kill enough clock to defuse Miami a shot at winning.
The Prediction : Miami has too many weapons, and wins 10 games for the first time since 2005, 38-24.