There is probably a sizable number of bettors out there who had Miami, Wisconsin, or both going to the College Football Playoff or at least New Year’s Six bowl games.
Each program’s push for a championship season ran into early road-blocks. The Badgers, known for an indomitable running game and great defense, found themselves out-played by ground and air against BYU in just the 3rd scrum of the season, losing 24-21. A few weeks later, Michigan and Northwestern crushed UW’s Big Ten hopes by a combined 39 points over 8 quarters.
Meanwhile, what was thought of as a talented Miami Hurricane roster fell apart with poor QB play and inconsistent blocking and tackling. Miami lost bigly to LSU in the opener, went on a winning streak, then lost 4 ACC contests in a row and finished 3rd in a less-than-stellar Coastal division.
The teams managed identical 7-5 records and will look to salvage morale (and recruiting buzz) with a statement-win over a fellow big brand in Yankee Stadium. Miami is currently the betting-board favorite.
Who: Miami Hurricanes vs Wisconsin Badgers
When: Wednesday, December 27th, 5:15 PM
Where: Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, NY
Lines: MIA (-3.5) vs Wisconsin (+3.5) / O/U Total (48)
While the 4-game skid derailed the ‘Canes in the ACC, Mark Richt’s team did regain some swagger over the following 2 games by dominating Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.
Quarterback play has been atrocious all season at the U. Suspensions and turmoil only added to the woes. Redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry has recaptured the job down the stretch, but has struggled his debut season completing 51.6% of his passes.
The defense has carried the load all the while, and it can be argued that a stuttering offense and sloppy special teams have wasted the effort of a unit among the stingiest in the country. The ‘Canes will march into Yankee Stadium with the 2nd ranked defense in the FBS, allowing just 268.3 yards per game.
State of the U opined in late November that the lack of a go-to WR is an equally big issue as the problems behind center:
At the beginning of the season, Ahmmon Richards was the clear-cut number-one receiver for the Hurricanes, and was regarded as one of the best in the country at the position. Once Richards was lost due to injury, Jeff Thomas emerged as the Canes new go-to-guy and was poised for a historic season at Miami. Now, both are gone, Richards to a career-ending injury, and Thomas has been dismissed from the program. With loads of young and unproven talent, also with two games remaining in the season, it’s a great time to familiarize yourselves with the guys N’Kosi Perry will be throwing to in the upcoming future, and who will take Richards/Thomas’ spot as THE guy.
Finding a new number-one receiver sounds easy, but the statistics prove otherwise. Thomas led the Hurricanes with 35 catches, the next closest receiver in receptions has 19 catches for the season. The main guy now will be Lawrence Cager, a red-zone nightmare for defenders, though his season has been filled with as many drops as scores. Cager leads the Canes with six touchdowns on the year, including two against Florida State, but unfortunately, he hasn’t made a trip to the end zone since the FSU game.
Meanwhile, Badger QB Alex Hornibrook’s progression has been stuck in quicksand. The junior has completed 59.5% of his passes for 1,532 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions – not a lovely stat line in modern football.
Had it not been for another monster season from running back Jonathan Taylor, bowl eligibility would have been in serious doubt. Taylor has not missed a beat his sophomore campaign, however, and needs to gain only 33 feet against the Canes to eclipse the 2,000 yard barrier.
Certainly it’s bad news when the passing game can’t capitalize on a crushing ground attack. But the front-7 on defense could be just as large of a concern. Wisconsin’s pass rush has failed to fluster quarterbacks in the pocket, ranking 111th with a pitiful 18 sacks on the season.
It’s clear that Vegas odds-makers think Wisconsin’s lack of an edge-rush gives Miami a slight advantage in the 2nd half of a close game. Perry, like any frosh QB, would struggle if met with a crazy-good pocket rush but could flourish in the Pinstripe Bowl if given time to operate.
The long-term weather forecast for the Bronx includes very chilly temperatures and potentially a stiff breeze and rain or snow, however. It’s not as if Miami has never had to deal with inclement weather before, since the program faces Boston College in some seasons in addition to schools from the rainy Carolinas. But there’s no question a foul-weather day at Yankee Stadium will benefit the Badgers and Jonathan Taylor more than N’Kosi Perry.
I’m leaning toward Wisconsin against the point spread…and if game-time precipitation is called for as late as 4-5 days before kickoff go ahead and bet 2 or 3 units before the lines change.