No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. No. 15 Miami Hurricanes (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS); Champs Sports Bowl; Tuesday, December 29th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL; TV: ESPN
By Oracle of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Wisconsin +2/Miami -2
Its the age old question that manifests itself once again when the No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers hook up with the No. 15 Miami Hurricanes in the Champs Sports Bowl on Tuesday, December 29th: What wins, power or speed?
The Big Ten is known for its physicality and toughness, which is what the Badgers will bring with them to Orlando, Florida. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Hurricanes are fast and athletic.
With that being said, it makes for an intriguing matchup between two teams that havent met for exactly two decades.
Online sportsbooks have a tight spread on this contest, which isnt too surprising seeing as how both teams have identical 9-3 records and are close in the national standings. With the game being held in Florida, which is essentially a home game for The U, sportsbooks opened up with Miami the slight favorite -2. However, at this point, nearly every major book online has that line moved to -3. Bettors should be able to find it at -3.5 at a couple of books as well.
The over/under opened at 56 points as well. Some sportsbooks have risen that total to 58 points.
The overall stats between these two squads are eerily similar. They are separated by just a tenth when it comes to points given up per game: Wisconsin is at 22.4 while Miami sits at 22.3.
Next, the offenses. Wisconsin (32.8) averages just about one point more per contest than Miami (31.7).
Since those team stats are so close, itll be important for bettors to look in other areas to find some kind of discrepancy between the squads. And wouldnt you know it, some of the more overlooked stats like penalties and time of possession sway in Wisconsins favor.
One reason for Wisconsins dominating TOP advantage is because of up and coming sophomore running back John Clay, who was recently featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Clay has been compared to the likes of Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, as he sits a robust 6-feet, 2-inches tall and 237 pounds. The bruising back has compiled 16 touchdowns and just under 1,400 yards on the year. He finished off the regular season in style with 172 yards and three scores in a 51-10 blowout win over Hawaii.
Believe it or not, though, Clay isnt the main reason the Badgers earned a bowl bid. For the first time in a while, the Badgers received a pleasant surprise when Scott Tolzien took the reins at quarterback this year. The junior fit in nicely and gave the Badgers a passing threat. With the rise of a young receiving corps (Nick Toon, Isaac Anderson, Lance Kendricks) and a veteran tight end in Garrett Graham, teams can no longer stack the box and get away with it.
Tolzien has been turnover prone this season though, throwing 10 interceptions to 16 touchdowns. His play will no doubt affect the outcome of the contest.
Defensively, Wisconsin will have to defend the multiple threat offense of Miami. The Badgers do possess one of the best rushing defenses in the nation, as they hold opponents to just 90.5 yards rushing per game (8th in the nation), which is no small task in the Big Ten. They also allow just 310 yards per game – 18th in the land.
However, they havent faced many offenses like Miami. Quarterback Jacory Harris leads an offense that gains 413 yards a game. Hes thrown for 3,164 yards and 23 touchdowns. But like Tolzien, Harris is prone to the interception, throwing 17 on the season.
He does have some nice targets to throw to, and their size will be imposing to the Badgers already questionable secondary.
Larry Hankerson (62) has 44 catches on the year along with six touchdowns. Laron Byrd (64) also has 30 catches for 414 yards. The X-factor in the receiving corps is speedster Travis Benjamin, who is Harris favorite deep threat, averaging 17.5 yards per catch.
Head coach Randy Shannon still likes to run the ball, but with Wisconsins stellar run defense, Harris and this trio will play a big role in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Shannon will no doubt still try to establish running backs Greg Cooper (666 yards) and Damien Berry (587 yards, 8 TDs) to keep Wisco off balance.
Meanwhile, Miamis run defense has something to prove. Theyll go up against Clay and the big Wisconsin line. The Hurricanes have played well by giving up 118 rushing yards per game, good enough for 28th in the country.
With the numbers so close between the squads, that means special teams will be a big factor in this one.
Both kickers have been consistent for their teams this year. Wisconsins kicker Philip Welch is 12-for-15 with a long of 57 yards while Miamis Matt Bosher is 12-for-14 with a long of 51 yards.
David Gilreath may give Wisconsin the slight edge as far as kick returning goes. He does have a 68-yard punt return for a score on the year and averages 24 yards per kickoff return with a long of 51 yards. The stats may not jump out on page, but his track record shows hes capable of busting one at any time.
Wisconsin hasnt been great for bettors this year with a 6-6 mark ATS. The trends arent in their favor either, as theyre just 1-6 ATS in their last seven against teams with a winning record.
On the other hand, the Hurricanes have covered their last four non-conference games.
The over has been a nice trend for Wisconsin, including coming in the last four games of the year. Its also 9-1 in the last 10 games following a straight up win.
The under has been a big trend for Miami in bowl games though, coming in four of the last five times.
The Badgers still dont have that one win on their resume for the 2009 season that would put them in an elite team category. Miami is looking to prove once again that speed kills. Will it be that speed that propels them to the win, or Wisconsins power?
Oracles Pick: No doubt the numbers are nearly dead even everywhere between these teams. Look for penalties and turnovers to hurt Miami, especially late. Gilreath will also have something to do with th