This year’s Orange Bowl is as far away from an offensive slugfest you can get and it doesn’t bring the same level of excitement as last season’s Florida State and Michigan Game, but that’s not to say this won’t be a competitive matchup. Both teams revolve around solid run Games and solid defenses and that left them both short in respective Conference championships. Wisconsin is getting most of the love with a better defense and was a -7 point favorite as of mid-December at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
That spread looks like a lot, but Miami has had its issues in recent Games, scoring just 17 points combined against Pitt and Clemson. So much of its success this season has come via home Games and turnovers and neither one of those things may come to light here. Not many believed in the Hurricanes throughout the season and then a couple big wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame changed that. But after some struggles in their final three Games, this team hasn’t looked the same.
It’s a difference case for Wisconsin, which was extremely close to upsetting Ohio State in the Big Ten championship. The Badgers had an easy Schedule, but ran through every opponent and dominated through defense.
Similar to the ACC title Game, Miami may have some trouble scoring points again. Wisconsin’s defense may not be at the same level as Clemson’s, but it’s extremely close, allowing 3.0 yards per carry and 13.2 points per Game. The Hurricanes aren’t bad offensively, but they lack explosiveness and that starts with quarterback Malik Rosier. The first-year starter doesn’t have bad numbers (25 TDs, 11 INTs), but he hasn’t been able to step up when needed, failing to reach more than 210 passing yards in the last five Games. He threw for a bunch in early Games against weaker defenses, but struggled to do anything against relevant defenses. The ‘Canes will run plenty behind Travis Homer (902 yards), but if that doesn’t work like the last couple Games, this offense will have trouble scoring. And as it stands, there’s no reason to believe Homer will find running room against the Badgers defense.
The thing with Miami is that a lot of its big wins have come through forcing turnovers on the defensive side with 17 interceptions and 13 fumbles recovered. If they can’t get those turnovers, it will be hard to win this Game.
The best chance for the Hurricanes will be that Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook forces the ball too much, which is more than possible as he finished with 21 touchdowns and 15 picks this season. Of course, Wisconsin doesn’t want to pass the ball. That’s where freshman running back Jonathan Taylor comes in, who has an impressive 1,847 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was only stopped once this season and that was the Big Ten title Game against a better Ohio State front. Miami only allows 3.5 yards per carry so that’s something to keep an eye on. As for Hornibrook, he always seems to make one or two big plays every Game that keeps defenses honest.
This spread is large, but there’s little reason to trust Miami’s offense with how it’s looked in recent Games. If they can’t run the ball, which is more than possible, Rosier will be forced into more work than he’s ready for.
The Badgers are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 road Games and have covered in their last six on grass. The Hurricanes are 1-5 ATS in their last six bowl Games and 1-4 ATS in their last five against the Big Ten.
Our Pick – Wisconsin -5.5