The Hurricanes and Badgers met a little under a year ago in the Capital One Orange Bowl after both finished ranked in the Top 25 of the College Football Playoff Committee’s rankings. Now, a season full of up-and-downs later, the teams meet again, but with less of the glitz of a big name bowl. That said, they will play in one of the world’s biggest cities in Yankees Stadium, and they are part of the bowl season once more.
Spread: Miami -3.5
The Hurricanes second year under Mark Richt wasn’t quite as successful as the first. While the defense remained strong (7th in Defensive S&P+), the offense fell off quite a bit. There were a variety of factors behind that decline, not the least of which was losing star wide receiver Ahmmon Richards to a career-ending neck injury. Another factor was inconsistent quarterback play. Senior Malik Rosier had his worst season, completing just 53.5 percent of his passes for a little over 1,000 yards before being replaced by highly-touted freshman N’Kosi Perry. Perry had a worse completion percentage (51.6) but a better touchdown-to-interception ratio (13-5 vs. 6-5). Running backs Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas were solid, combining for over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Overall, the inconsistency hurt the ‘Canes ability to sustain drives, but they were fairly explosive (1.20 IsoPPP; 48th).
Wisconsin, at 7-5, had an odd season. Starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook didn’t progress as expected and missed two games due to injury. The junior completed a hair under 60 percent of his passes for 1,500 yards with 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in nine games. He missed the team’s games Penn State (loss) and Purdue (win) before coming back to play against Rutgers and Minnesota. Sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor once again ran all over defenses to the tune of 1,989 yards and 15 touchdowns on 280 carries. The Badgers defense was good (43rd S&P+), but not nearly as dominant as last year when they ranked third in that metric.
Neither team was very good against the spread this season, though the ‘Canes were the better of the two with a 5-7 record vs. just a 3-9 mark for Wisconsin. The records weren’t any more impressive in their respective roles for this game. Miami was 3-3 as a favorite while Wisconsin was 1-2 as an underdog. This game has the feel of a toss-up, and with that in mind, I’ll stick with Miami’s defense though Wisconsin will keep it close. Wisconsin +3.5; Under 47.5
Local Expert Take- Jim Berry WFOR Sports Anchor
“Both of these teams really expected to be in much better shape at the end of the year than they ended up being as both finished 7-5. The ‘Canes had a four-game losing streak that sabotaged any hopes they had of making a bigger dent this season. It’s a rematch of last year’s Orange Bowl. The ‘Canes had trouble with the rugged Wisconsin Badgers then and I think they will again.”