Here we go again. For the second time in as many years, the University of Miami will be pitted against the Wisconsin Badgers in a bowl game. It’s bittersweet — actually, to be more precise, it’s ripe with disappointment. Both programs had lofty expectations entering 2018, with the goal of winning a divisional crown a mere formality, and both teams expecting to make at least a conference title appearance. However, each program suffered regretful losses that derailed their campaign towards a championship conquest. Now, when the two programs meet in the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl, the winner of this game hopes to carry some positive momentum forward in an otherwise miserable season.
Iron Sharpens Iron (One vs One Matchup)
Miami DE Jonathan Garvin vs Wisconsin T David Edwards
Similar to most contests on the college football calendar, this game will be decided in the trenches. When both teams come out of the dugout — weird as that is to say — the Badgers’ focus will be on Miami’s preeminent pass rushers. Sophomore DE Jonathan Garvin has dwarfed his freshman numbers from the 2017 season, appearing to have rounded out his overall game in the process. Neo, as some like to call him, has elevated his play in 2018. Amassing 54 tackles, 16 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, five pass breakups and two recorded QB hurries, Garvin’s ability to generate pressure continues to trend upward.
The main task will be to slow down Badgers running game, which is the identity of the offense. This means Garvin will need to find a way to elude the grasp of 6’7”, 315 pound right tackle David Edwards. Coming off the heels of the ‘17 season, Edwards returned to Wisconsin after receiving a second-round grade from the College Advisory Committee. The decision became all the more difficult after the former All-American suffered a shoulder injury that plagued him throughout this season. Originally diagnosed as a stinger, Edwards has missed the Badgers’ previous two games because of the issue.
When healthy, the tackle is considered one of the better pro prospects at his position. He’s got the size, lateral agility and, of course, that trademark midwest toughness to road grade the opposition out of the way. Considering that the offensive lineman was originally recruited to play TE for the Badgers, it makes sense that Edwards’ athleticism has translated to the position. For all his strengths, Edwards does have his fair share of flaws. Whether it was the bull rush of BYU or trying to stymy Michigan’s Chase Winovich, Edwards appears to have lapses in consistency on a game-by-game basis. Whether or not Jon Garvin is able to capitalize on those flaws remains to be seen, because David Edwards is questionable to participate in the Pinstripe Bowl. Winning the battle on the perimeter of the line of scrimmage is crucial in determining success or failure in this game.
Positional Matchup of the Week
Wisconsin’s Offensive Line vs Miami’s Defensive Front Seven
We’re not taking anyone by surprise in regard to the two units that we think have the largest impact in determining the outcome of this bowl game. The Badgers’ offensive line is the pride of Wisconsin, while the Canes’ defensive line is the rockstar of the 305. Unfortunately, UM will be without their frontman, DT Gerald Willis III, who sustained a hand injury leading. That’s 18 of Miami’s FBS leading 126 TFL’s removed from the team travelling up north to Gotham. Despite the loss of Willis, the Canes’ edge rushing duo of DE Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin combine to provide 14.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles-for-loss, generating significant pressure on opponents to date. The Badgers are the Canes’ stiffest test of the season.
The weather will be a factor, and last year’s bowl game will have some lingering impact on both programs. Yet, for all the talk about disappointment that both teams share in going 7-5 on the season, we know that Wisconsin wants to impose their will with the run game. On the other side of the ball, the Hurricanes would gladly like to flex their top three defense in the face of the competition. Wisconsin’s offensive line is responsible for the Badgers’ rushing for 3,221 yards — good enough for seventh best in the country, averaging 6.28 yards-per-rush. While the passing game for Wisconsin has been more erratic than a DC Comic film, the Badgers’ 21 sacks allowed is above the national average.
Of course, you can go back to the 2017 Orange Bowl and see that Miami allowed the Badgers to rush for 142 yards, but that came at the cost of 44 attempts and average yards-per-carry below four. Outside of the Canes’ offense gifting three interceptions, the play of Alex Hornibrook turned the tide in favor of the boys from Madison. As odd as it may sound, that’s an outcome Miami should be able to digest, given starting QB Jack Coan’s inconsistency in 2018 — 4 TDs, 2 INTs, -43 rushing yards. It’ll be a battle of strength in this bowl rematch, with only one side being able to carry some positive momentum into a long offseason.
Caneseye Players to Watch
All-American. Future first-round pick. The best running back in college football. The superlatives for Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor are long and healthy and, most importantly, warranted. Taylor continued to dazzle as sophomore in 2018, rushing for 1,989 yards and leading the Big Ten with 15 rushing TDs. The 2018 Doak Walker Award Recipient is the engine of the offense for Wisconsin. Taylor possesses the strength to shed arm tackles, burst and acceleration out of the backfield, and the vision to pick up significant yardage behind. Taylor gashed the Hurricanes to the tune of 130 yards on 26 carries in last year’s bowl game.
The Pinstripe Bowl will be the final game that defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has in that role, before he heads back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to focus on being the Temple Owl’s full-time head coach. In his final game with this group of Canes, expect the outgoing DC to empty his bag of tricks with exotic pressures and blitzes aimed at combating Taylor and the Badgers’ run game.
There’s been plenty of talk about the defense so far, but what about the Hurricanes’ offense? Similar to their opponents, Miami’s passing offense has struggled in spots throughout the season. As I often say, the QB takes too much of the blame when the team does poorly, and receives an elevated level of praise when the program is winning. This game for QB N’Kosi Perry might as well be a playoff game. Head coach Mark Richt has been transparent with fans, indicating that — for a consecutive year — Miami’s off-season will be filled with QB competition articles to carry you through the winter, well into the 2019 season.
For his part, it sure has been an experience with each start from N’Kosi Perry. In his last game against Pittsburgh, the QB completed just six of his 24 pass attempts for a grand total 52 passing yards. In Miami’s 38-14 victory over Virginia Tech, Perry completed 61% of his pass attempts for 171 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. Which No. 5 will we see Thursday night is anyone’s guess? That is if he gets the start at all.
If 2018 is the emergence of Muddy B, then 2019 is setting up to be the Year of Bandy. Having gained notoriety for his productivity in coverage, Bandy has emerged as the Canes best cover corner during the majority of the 2018 season. Bandy will likely cover either of Wisconsin’s top two outside receivers: A.J. Taylor or Danny Davis III. If the analytical statistics are not enough to dissuade the Badgers from avoiding Bandy, then perhaps the team-high three interceptions and eight pass breakups provide further support for his case as a top cover-corner.
Linebacker TJ Edwards — no relations to David Edwards — has been one of the constants on the Badgers’ defense. Leading the team with 104 tackles and 10.5 TFL, and he even chipped in with three sacks. Edwards has good closing speed and his instincts are truly impressive when you review his game film. Beware, the senior LB has a knack for picking off passes close to the line of scrimmage. Don’t help him out by staring down your checkdown target.
While his long golden locks will cause some to scoff, this senior linebacker has been one of the Badgers premier edge rushers. With 4.5 sacks, 7.5 TFLs, and 52 total tackles on the season, Van Ginkel is one of the Badgers best pass rushers. Thad said, the LB will drop back into coverage from time to time, hence No. 17 snagging one of three Miami interceptions last season.
One Last Thing
Miami is 2-3 all-time against Wisconsin
Miami is 19-20 all-time in bowl games
The last win by Miami over Wisconsin came in 1989 under head coach Dennis Erickson.
Wisconsin is 15-14 all-time in bowl games
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!