2007 Capital One Bowl - Wisconsin vs Arkansas

Posted Dec 14, 2006

2007 Capital One Bowl Preview & Prediction - Wisconsin vs. Arkansas

Wisconsin (11-1) vs. Arkansas (10-3)

Jan. 1st, 1:00 p.m. ET, ABC

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Capital One Bowl Player Profile: Arkansas LB Sam Olaubutu, team bowl history and more

Is Wisconsin actually any good? Is Arkansas the real deal, or did it just get hot for a few big games?

How is it that a Big Ten team can go 11-1 and still be such a complete and total mystery, and can the Hogs prove that it really was one of the nation's best teams?

For several reasons, this should be one of the most interesting non-BCS games generating plenty of buzz due to all the excitement and anticipation surrounding both teams. The Badgers and Hogs should be loaded for bear next season with the bulk of the starters returning highlighted by star running backs P.J. Hill and Darren McFadden. The best might really be yet to come for two teams that should be in the 2007 preseason top ten.

National Rankings
Wisconsin Arkansas
Total Offense
26th  387.50 ypg 31st  378.77 ypg
Total Defense
4th  243.50 ypg 33rd  307.23 ypg
Scoring Offense
20th  30.25 ppg 22nd  30 ppg
Scoring Defense
3rd  11.92 ppg 30th  18.38 ppg
Run Offense
25th  175.58 ypg 4th  228.23 ypg
Run Defense
23rd  105 ypg 47th  123.77 ypg
Pass Offense
50th  211.92 ypg 105th  150.54 ypg
Pass Defense
2nd  138.50 ypg 38th  183.46 ypg
Turnover Margin
52nd  0.08 85th  -0.38
at B. Green W 35-14
Western Ill. W 34-10
SDSU W 14-0
at Michigan L 27-13
at Indiana
W 52-17
Nwestern W 41-9
Minnesota W 48-12
at Purdue W 24-3
Illinois W 30-24
Penn State W 13-3
at Iowa W 24-21
Buffalo W 35-3
USC  L 50-14
Utah State W 20-0
at Vandy W 21-19
Bama W 24-23 2OT
at Auburn W 27-10
SE Miss. St
W 63-7
Ole Miss W 38-3
UL Monroe W 44-10
at S Car. W 26-20
Tennessee W 31-14
at Miss St
W 28-14
LSU L 31-26
SEC Championship
Florida L 38-28
Position Ratings
relative to each other
W 5 highest
1 lowest
4 Quarterbacks 2
5 RBs 5
3.5 Receivers 3.5
4.5 O Line 4.5
3.5 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 4
4.5 Secondary 3
3.5 Spec Teams 3
4.5 Coaching 4

Wisconsin's season started in Orlando in early 2006 when it pulled off one of the stunners of the bowl season beating Auburn 24-10 in the Capital One Bowl. Barry Alvarez passed the torch to Bret Bielema, who cranked out the second 11-win season in school history and is in position for the with 12-win campaign.

Yes, Wisconsin's defense is the real deal and yes, Hill is one of the nation's best backs, but it didn't hurt to have a squishy soft schedule with no Ohio State and a non-conference slate that you and ten friends could've gotten through unscathed (Bowling Green, Western Illinois, San Diego State and Buffalo). There were only four wins over bowl teams, and Minnesota, Purdue and Iowa weren't exactly knocking down the door to Glendale.

Along with a 13-3 win over Penn State, the one true test was at Michigan, but that came in the Big Ten opener before the young receiving corps started to jell. The defense held Mike Hart to 91 yards, one of his lowest outputs of the year, and picked off Chad Henne three times, but two big plays to Mario Manningham, and no passing game whatsoever, were too much to overcome.

How high is too high to finish? An impressive win, and a few breaks the right way, and a final number two ranking isn't totally out of the question. But Arkansas isn't going to be a pushover.

Expected to be a year away from becoming something special, Houston Nutt's young, young, young squad was one of the shockers of the season winning the nasty SEC West before losing to Florida 38-28. After the 50-14 opening day home loss to USC, a close call against Vanderbilt, and a gift from the kicking gods double-overtime win over Alabama didn't exactly get Hog fans running out to buy their SEC Championship game tickets, and then came the road trip to Auburn.

With the way these two teams run the ball, it could be one of the fastest bowl games of the season. And one of the best.

Players to watch: Darren McFadden finished second in the Heisman race and will be one of the favorites going into 2007 after tearing off 1,558 yards, 15 touchdowns, catching 11 passes with a score, and throwing for three touchdowns.
Big, fast and versatile, McFadden can do it all, but he'll also be marked man number one for the Badger defense that allows just 105 yards per game.

With 219 tackles over the last three seasons, Wisconsin's Mark Zalewski has been a machine in the middle. Quick enough to play on the outside and tough enough to handle himself well against any guard, it'll be his job to hold his ground and not allow McFadden or Felix Jones to see too much daylight up the gut.

The most interesting one-on-one matchup could be Arkansas WR Marcus Monk against UW's
Jack Ikegwuonu. Coming off a suspension, Ikegwuonu is one of the few corners big enough and physical enough to handle the 6-6 Monk, especially in the red zone. The 6-1, 200-pound sophomore isn't a burner, but he can hit and isn't afraid to mix it up; he won't be shoved around by Monk, who was an unstoppable scoring machine over the second half of the season with eight touchdowns over the final six games.

While QB John Stocco is back and healthy after missing the last two games of the regular season with a shoulder problem, the Badger offense revolves around P.J. Hill, who tore off a tough 1,533 yards and 15 touchdowns. While he wasn't quite the same late in the year after suffering a neck stinger, he was still productive as a steady force with Stocco out. He's a good receiver, but he's at his best when he gets up a head of steam.

Wisconsin will win if... it plays Badger ball and pounds, pounds and pounds some more. This is a relatively diverse offense that can throw effectively with the veteran Stocco playing better and better as the season went on, but this is a game for the 242-pound Hill and his front five. Joe Thomas, Andy Kemp, Marcus Coleman, Kraig Urbik and Eric Vanden Heuvel average close to 320 pounds per man, while the backups are just as big. The Arkansas run defense was average at best all season long, and it didn't even face anyone who could line up and smash it in the mouth. The Hog defense front has decent size, but the linebackers aren't that big and will have have to be physical from start to finish.

Arkansas will win if... Casey Dick is efficient. He doesn't have to throw for 300 yards and four touchdown passes, but the sophomore has to be effective on third downs, make plays when he rolls out, and not turn the ball over. He appeared to be the answer late in the year taking over for a struggling Mitch Mustain and coming up with great games in wins over South Carolina and Tennessee, but then he fell off the map bottoming out with a three-of-17 performance in the loss to LSU. He's far from a polished product, but against the nation's number one pass efficiency defense, he'll have to play like one.

What will happen: On paper, this is an awful matchup for Arkansas, while Wisconsin should thank its stars it didn't draw LSU. The Badger defense is sound, quicker than it gets credit for, and tremendous against the pass and solid against the run, while the offense should be able mix it up and move without much of a problem on the average Hog D. However, UW put up its numbers against some awful teams. The offense wasn't always consistent and the defense didn't have to do much against middling attacks. On the flip side, you don't get to the SEC title game like Arkansas did without being able to overcome some deficiencies. Even so, Arkansas doesn't have a quarterback to take the pressure off McFadden and Jones, while the Badgers have Stocco back. The senior quarterback will be the difference.

Line: Arkansas -1 ... CFN Prediction:
Wisconsin 27 ... Arkansas 17