Wisconsin State Journal reporter Jason Galloway breaks down the matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers (7-5) and Miami Hurricanes (7-5) in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in New York.
WHEN THE BADGERS HAVE THE BALL
Despite a down year overall, Miami’s defense ranked as one of the nation’s best units this season. The Hurricanes allowed less passing yards per game (140.8) than any other team in the country and entered bowl season second nationally in total defense, giving up 268.3 yards per contest.
UW, which ranks seventh in rushing offense, will try to establish its ground game with Doak Walker Award winner Jonathan Taylor, who entered bowl season leading the nation in rushing at 1,989 yards.
The Badgers’ passing game has been an issue all season, however. Sophomore Jack Coan will start at quarterback after Alex Hornibrook experienced reoccurring symptoms from a head injury he suffered earlier this year. Coan — a Sayville, N.Y., native who will be playing close to home — has completed 61 percent of his passes for 442 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in the four games he's played this season.
Miami will be without star defensive tackle Gerald Willis III, while UW right tackle David Edwards remains questionable after missing the last two games with a left arm injury.
EDGE | MIAMI
KEY STAT | TURNOVERS
Miami entered bowl season tied for 12th nationally with 24 takeaways, while the Badgers’ 23 turnovers rank outside the top 100 of FBS teams.
WHEN THE HURRICANES HAVE THE BALL
While defense leads the way for Miami, the play of its offense has often determined results. The Hurricanes are 7-0 when scoring more than 21 points this season and 0-5 when posting 21 points or less.
Miami’s had quarterback issues of its own, as senior Malik Rosier ultimately lost his job to freshman N’Kosi Perry. Perry’s completed just 51.6 percent of his passes this season for 1,089 yards but has thrown 13 touchdowns to only five interceptions.
The Badgers rank 57th nationally against the run after staying in the top five of that category each of the past three years. It doesn’t help that inside linebacker Ryan Connelly (undisclosed injury) will sit out the bowl game. UW’s passing defense, however, has improved throughout the season. It now ranks 38th in the country despite a number of young and inexperienced players in the secondary.
EDGE | UW
KEY STAT | T.J. EDWARDS
With Connelly out, UW may rely even more heavily on senior inside linebacker T.J. Edwards, the Big Ten’s active leader in tackles with 358. He has 104 stops on the year and needs just five in the Pinstripe Bowl to crack the Badgers’ all-time top 10 in that category.
Miami’s benefited from two punt return touchdowns in its past two games — one from Jeff Thomas in a win at Virginia Tech on Nov. 17 and another from DeeJay Dallas the following week against Pittsburgh.
UW surrendered a punt return touchdown against Minnesota in its last game, allowing the Gophers to break the game open in the second quarter.
Hurricanes freshman kicker Bubba Baxa has made 8-of-11 field goals this season, while sophomore Zach Feagles has struggled to a 38.87 punting average.
EDGE | MIAMI
UW and Miami are two of the most disappointing teams in the country this season after both began the year in the top 10, although Paul Chryst and Mark Richt have both enjoyed success early in their tenure at their current programs.
Richt has built a 171-63 record over 18 years of head coaching experience, while Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz led one of the country’s best units this season and will take over as Temple’s head coach after the Pinstripe Bowl.
EDGE | MIAMI
The Badgers have won four straight bowl games, while Miami’s lost seven of its last eight. The Hurricanes could be out to avenge last season’s loss to UW in the Orange Bowl. A cold-weather game at Yankee Stadium may benefit the Badgers.
EDGE | UW
STATE JOURNAL'S PICK
UW’s offense got the better of Miami’s defense in last year’s Orange Bowl, but it’ll likely prove much more difficult for the Badgers to score against the Hurricanes this time around.
MIAMI 21, BADGERS 13
THE NUMBER (UW)
189 | combined career starts for the Badgers’ starting offensive line.
THE NUMBER (Miami)
4.16 | yards per play allowed by Miami this season, the third-best mark in the country entering bowl season.