Ryan Mayer

The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication

A bit of an added bonus to this bowl preview, along with the other five members of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games. In addition to the usual spread and total paragraphs we have in these previews, we’ll have a quote from one of the guys over at Sportsline, giving you some things they’re thinking about heading into these games. You’ll see it at the bottom of the post here and you can see more from the guys over at the site.

Capital One Orange Bowl

#10 Miami (10-2) vs. #6 Wisconsin (12-1)

Spread: Wisconsin -6.5

Total: 45

Spread: Miami got national attention this season thanks to a swarming defense and the best sideline gimmick in the country: the turnover chain. The defense ranked in the Top 20 in scoring, allowing just under 20 points per game (19.9) while holding opponents to 361 yards per outing. Five players had 10+ tackles for loss this year and 11 guys had between 2 and 8.5 sacks. They put pressure on opponents with the front seven and the secondary then converts errant throws into turnovers, with 17 interceptions on the season.

The offense was led by QB Malik Rosier who completed under 55-percent of his passes for 2,900 yards and 25 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions. They have been hit by injuries, first when top running back Mark Walton went down with a season-ending ankle injury. Then, it was tight end Chris Herndon, and, just prior to the ACC Championship Game, explosive wide receiver Ahmmon Richards tore his meniscus, and was done for the year. The offense was good through most of the year, but in the last two games against Pitt and Clemson, they mustered just 17 points.

The road doesn’t get any easier facing a Wisconsin defense that stymied opponents throughout the season, giving up just 13.2 points and 253.2 yards per game. They’ve dealt with injuries on that side of the ball, losing expected star pass rusher Jack Cichy to a torn ACL, but were able to overcome that to post very good numbers. And, the Badgers actually picked off the same number of passes as the Hurricanes. Linebackers Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards led the way with 155 tackles, 22 for loss and five sacks.

The offense was probably the bigger surprise for Wisconsin as they were replacing a pair of top running backs in Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale with a true freshman in Jonathan Taylor. Taylor has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations, rushing for over 1,800 yards and 13 touchdowns on 6.8 yards-per-carry. He’s the big reason that the Badgers rank in the Top 25 in rushing per game at 229.5 yards per outing. Though the offense is run-heavy, with double the amount of rushing attempts as passes per game (44.8 to 22.4), QB Alex Hornibrook was effective with his passes completing 61-percent of his passes for over 2,300 yards and 21 touchdowns. He did throw 15 interceptions, which he’ll need to avoid here for obvious reasons.

In terms of records against the spread, Wisconsin was 8-5 while Miami was 5-7. One thing that people discussed all year about this Wisconsin team was the lack of strong opponents on their schedule as they avoided Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State in their crossover games. They did look dominant against Michigan and played a tight game with Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, so those questions were answered a bit. Because of the injuries, I wonder how much damage Miami can do against what is unquestionably a good Wisconsin defense. Wisconsin -6.5

Total: The total is really low here because of the two defenses. Miami was 2-10 against the total this year while Wisconsin was 7-6. That, combined with Miami’s scoring woes in their last two games, has us leaning under. Under 45

Sportsline Expert: “Two of the nation’s surprising playoff contenders came up just short at the end, but now matchup for what should be an entertaining Orange Bowl — that will likely come down to the fourth quarter. Both teams have showcased second-half mentalities.

Wisconsin wears down foes, leading to an overwhelming 237-64 second-half point-differential, thanks to a pounding ground game and the top-ranked defense in the county.

Miami actually trailed or was tied after the first quarter in eight of its 12 games and trailed six times at halftime.

It didn’t affect Hurricanes’ bottom line (10-2) thanks to strong finishes. In a game where points could be a luxury, whichever team dictates its tempo after the break will have the advantage.” -Sportsline staff writer Adam Thompson

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