The Big Ten Conference, after getting shut-out of the College Football Playoff, is 5-0 straight up and 4-1 against the spread through its first five bowls. Wisconsin carries the Big Ten banner into hostile territory Saturday night, as it takes on Miami in the Orange Bowl on the ‘Canes home field at Hard Rock Stadium (8 pm ET, ESPN).
Most of this year’s bowl betting market opened the Badgers at -6.5, with an over/under of right around 45. As of about 24 hours before kickoff those numbers were holding steady.
Orange Bowl Match-Up
Wisconsin (12-1 SU, 8-5 ATS) won its first 12 games this season, although it didn’t exactly play a Murderers’ Row of a schedule. Their best victories probably came against Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan, although two of those teams have already won bowls. Nonetheless Wisconsin won the Big Ten West, and had a chance at making the College Football Playoff. But they lost the Big Ten championship game to a very good Ohio State outfit 27-21.
Wisconsin fell down to the Buckeyes 21-7 in the second quarter, rallied to within 24-21 in the fourth and drove inside OSU territory on its final possession, before a 4th-down interception ended the game.
The Badgers actually got outplayed fairly solidly by the Buckeyes, and were somewhat lucky to stay that close.
On the season Wisconsin outgained and outrushed every opponent except one; Ohio State.
Miami (10-2 SU, 5-7 ATS), meanwhile, won its first 10 games this season, although it played with fire several times. The ‘Canes needed late-game heroics to beat Florida State and Georgia Tech, and won a couple other close ones. But they beat Virginia Tech and Notre Dame convincingly, and clinched their first-ever berth in the ACC championship with one game to spare. Unfortunately, they laid an egg up at Pittsburgh, putting a big dent in their CFP hopes, then had those hopes crushed by Clemson in a 38-3 loss in the ACC championship game.
Miami fell down to the Tigers 14-0 in the first quarter and never mounted a challenge from there. In fact, the ‘Canes never even hit the scoreboard until settling for a meaningless field goal with three minutes to go.
So Miami has been outgained each of its last three games, and five of its last nine times out.
By the Numbers
Wisconsin ranks 49th in the nation this season in total offense at 417 yards per game and No. 1 in defense, holding foes to just 253 YPG, all while playing what Sagarin at USAToday.com ranks as the 49th-toughest schedule.
Miami ranks 60th in offense at 406 YPG and 38th in defense at 361 YPG, while playing the 29th-toughest schedule.
Free College Football Orange Bowl Pick
This should be a close one, and turnovers might mean the difference. Wisconsin’s quarterback tends to throw interceptions, while Miami’s defense tends to snag ’em. And just one could make all the difference. We’re taking the points here with the Hurricanes.