2009 Champs Sports Bowl - Miami vs. Wisconsin
Miami QB Jacory Harris & Wisconsin RB John Clay
Miami QB Jacory Harris & Wisconsin RB John Clay
Posted Dec 18, 2009

The CFN 2009 Champs Sports Bowl Preview - Miami vs. Wisconsin

2009 Champs Sports Bowl

Miami (9-3) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)

Orlando, FL, Dec. 29, 4:30 ESPN

Scroll Down For Bowl Histories & Best Moments

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Team Pages and 2009 Season

- 2008 CFN Champs Sports Bowl Preview
- 2007 CFN Champs Sports Bowl Preview
- 2006 CFN Champs Sports Bowl Preview
National Rankings
M   W
36th Total Offense 34th
25th  Total Defense 18th
27th Scoring Offense 21st
40th Scoring Defense 41st
62nd Rushing Offense 14th
28th Run Defense 8th
27th Passing Offense 71st
38th Passing Defense 66th
70th Turnover Margin 31st
Position Ratings
relative to each other
M 5 highest
1 lowest
4 Quarterbacks 3.5
4 RBs 5
4 Receivers 4
3 O Line 3.5
4 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 3.5
4 Secondary 2.5
4.5 Spec Teams 3.5
3.5 Coaching 3.5
Champs Sports Bowl History
2008 Florida St 42, Wisconsin 13
2007 Boston College 24, Michigan State 21
2006 Maryland 24, Purdue 7
2005 Clemson 19, Colorado 10
2004 Georgia Tech 51, Syracuse 14
2003 NC State 56, Kansas 26
2002 Texas Tech 55, Clemson 15
2001 Pittsburgh 34, NC State 19
2000 NC State 38, Minnesota 30
1999 Illinois 63, Virginia 21
1998 Miami 46, NC State 23
1997 Georgia Tech 35, Virginia 30
1996 Miami 31, Virginia 21
1995 South Carolina 24, West Virginia 21
1994 Boston College 31, Virginia 13
1993 Stanford 24, Penn State 3
1991 Alabama 30, Colorado 25
1990 Florida State 24, Penn State 17
It wouldn't be a stunner if this was a BCS-level matchup in 2011 (after the 2010 season).

Miami and Wisconsin had good seasons, solid seasons, successful seasons, no matter what happens in Orlando, but they were both in the same boat of being really close to doing big things and coming up short in the big spotlight games. However, this is going to be a good exhibition, and a strong measurement, for the preseason polls for next season, and that's why this game will matter more than most bowls.

The polls are what count, and if you start high, you stay high, and you're in a position to do truly big things by playing up to the ranking. The winner of this game, especially if it's in impressive fashion, will have a shot to start next year in the top ten and become one of the hot teams going into the season. And if it's Miami that pulls of a big, splashy win, then it could be the spark to a national title discussion.

If everything goes perfectly, the Canes could have nine starters back on defense, QB Jacory Harris and WRs Leonard Hankerson and Aldarius Johnson back to lead a strong offense, and they could be closer to being the program that everyone feared for two decades. This year, Miami melted down in a loss to Clemson, was unfocused in a loss at North Carolina, and got ripped up by a jacked up Virginia Tech, but it always seemed to be hanging around the ACC title hunt until late. But even at 9-3, and with a chance for the first ten-win season since 2003, this is a supremely talented team that hasn't played up to its potential.

For all of the good things Harris was able to do at times, he also threw a ton of interceptions. The running game was hit-or-miss, the pass rush was spotty, and the offensive line was stunningly inconsistent. It took too much work to beat Wake Forest, with close wins over Florida State and Oklahoma weren't that big a deal, at least in hindsight, and for all the good things the team has done, the losses were too puzzling to suggest that this is a mature team. But if the Canes can do to Wisconsin what Florida State did last year in this bowl, then that's all anyone will remember.

Wisconsin has always had to fight perceptions. This has been a program full of fast athletes, NFL prospects, and real, live college football playmakers, but because of its style and because of its lack of signature wins over the last few seasons, it's been hard for anyone to see this as anything more than a good team that comes up with great records because of easy schedules.

Miami had the ACC title there for the taking, and blew it, but Wisconsin really botched up some big opportunities. While two of the non-conference wins were against bowl teams, they were nail-biters against Northern Illinois and Fresno State at home … that's not exactly Florida State and Oklahoma, even in down years. The Badgers' best win this year was against Michigan State, and the second best was at Minnesota. They didn't take advantage of missing Penn State, melted down with turnovers against Ohio State, struggled on offense at home against Iowa, and came up with a weird performance in a 33-31 loss to Northwestern that kept them from playing on New Year's Day. Like Miami, Wisconsin is going for a ten-win season, which would be a huge success after last year's 7-6 disaster finished up by, arguably, the ugliest bowl game of the year with a 42-13 embarrassment against Florida State.

Last year's Champs Sports Bowl was par for the course for one of the worst bowl games year in and year out. Call it the Tangerine Bowl, call it the Blockbuster, call it the Micron PC, or just call it the annual suckfest in late December, but this bowl has rarely been interesting. Since 1993, only three of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less with the ACC on a roll winning six straight. However, this appears to be the best matchup in years, and it could turn out to be one of the few games this bowl season that will have an impact on the offseason.

Players to Watch: In a down year for Big Ten offensive players, Badger bruiser John Clay was one of the few stars of the show. After playing a bit of a backup role early in the season, partly by design and partly as a bit of a message sent by the coaching staff, Clay was still the main man for the attack finishing with 1,396 yards and 16 touchdowns thanked to a monster five-game finishing kick running for 123 yards, 134, 151, 100, and 172 along with nine touchdowns. Not just a punishing between-the-tackles runner, he has the breakaway speed to take it the distance from anywhere on the field. He was erased right away in last year's loss to Florida State, running for just 39 yards on 11 carries, and he had two of his worst games this year in key losses to Ohio State and Iowa. The Badgers are 9-2 when he runs for 100 yards are more.

As Jacory Harris goes, so goes Miami. The sophomore was on top of everyone's Heisman list on September 17th after ripping up Florida State and Georgia Tech to start the season, but when he clunked, he clunked hard. He'll tend to force too many throws that aren't there and his decision-making ability is hit-or-miss, but when he's on, Miami can't be beaten. However, he struggles when under pressure and he throws way too many devastating interceptions. Of the 17 giveaways, four came in the loss to North Carolina and three came in the loss to Clemson. In the blasting by Virginia Tech, Harris completed just 9-of-25 passes for 150 yards and a pick. While he's mobile, he's more of a pocket passer who needs time to work. He might not get that.

Wisconsin gets a decent push into the backfield from several spots, and if Miami, who struggles in pass protection, doesn't fully concentrate on O'Brien Schofield , it's going to be a long day for Harris. Ideally, Miami would've beeen able to match up 6-7 all-star tackle Jason Fox on the smallish Badger pass rusher, but Fox is out after undergoing season-ending surgery. The UW coaching staff will move Schofield around to get him going. Even when he's not coming up with sacks, he's a pure speed rusher who demands a chip from a back and concern from the quarterback. He has to be a disruptive force for the entire game.

Wisconsin will win if ... QB Scott Tolzien is on. The junior was the difference between a decent 7-5 bowl season and a possible ten-win campaign. While he made too many ill-advised throws in big games, and he got picked off way too often when under pressure, he's not afraid to push the ball deep to one of his underappreciated speed receivers, most notable Nick Toon, and he's not afraid to force the ball, for good and bad, and let his target make the play. He'll have two NFL-caliber tight ends in Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks to use as safety valves, and he has take advantage of a Hurricane D that will focus its linebackers on stuffing Clay. Miami will dare Tolzien to win this game.

Miami will win if ... it's able to hang around. If the Canes don't get the offense revved up early and take the game by the horns from the start, they have to make sure they keep on pushing and not get too far behind. Harris is at his best when he doesn't have to press, and if Wisconsin knows he's going to start throwing to try to come back, then Schofield and company will in their ears back and blow into the backfield.

Wisconsin isn't good at closing. In a perfect world, the Badgers get a lead and grind out the clock with a strong rushing game that forces defenses to wilt. Instead, they've managed to struggle when victory appears assured. From a fumble that was returned for a touchdown against Minnesota, to a late bomb from Michigan State, to a hot Ben Chappell in the Indiana game, to Fresno State's push in double overtime, the Badgers managed to win most of the close games once they got the lead late, but mediocre teams couldn't get over the top. Miami isn't mediocre and could rally late if needed.

What will happen: Miami will show off the speed, the athleticism, and the talent that will make everyone get all fired up about the possibilities next year. Don't assume that Wisconsin will look slow, and don't assume that Miami can't play with a little bit of power. But Miami will be focused, will play up to its talent level, and it will simply be the better team. Wisconsin won't force enough mistakes, while the Canes will win the turnover battle to keep the Badger offense from ever getting the momentum.

CFN Prediction: Miami 31 … Wisconsin 26 ... Line: Miami -3

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Best Badger Bowl Moment: Wisconsin won three Rose Bowls under the watchful eye of Barry Alvarez, but none that generated more electricity in Madison than the 1994 victory. The 21-16 win over UCLA was the school's first on New Year's Day, capping the Badgers' first Big Ten title in 32 years. More than 70,000 rabid fans made the trip to Pasadena, giving Wisconsin a unique home-field advantage in the Bruins' home stadium.

Best Hurricane Bowl Moment: The first of Miami's five national championships came on the heels of one of the most riveting games in college football history, the 1984 Orange Bowl. The ‘Canes, a team with few stars, were considerable underdogs to Nebraska, which entered the game on a 22-game winning streak. The game featured Husker guard Dean Steinkuhler's "fumblerooskie" touchdown run and a game-saving tip of an attempted two-point conversion pass by Miami safety Ken Calhoun. The 31-30 win marked the emergence of the ‘Canes as a national power.

Miami Bowl History (18-14)
2008 Emerald Cal 24, Miami 17
2006 MPC Computers Miami 21, Nevada 20
2005 Peach LSU 40, Miami 3
2004 Peach Miami 27, Florida 10
2003 Orange Miami 16, Florida State 14
2002 Fiesta Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2 OT)
2001 Rose Miami 37, Nebraska 14
2000 Sugar Miami 37, Florida 20
1999 Gator Miami 28, Georgia Tech 13
1998 Micron PC Miami 46, N.C. State 28
1996 Carquest Miami 31, Virginia 21
1994 Orange Nebraska 24, Miami 17
1993 Fiesta Arizona 29, Miami 0
1992 Sugar Alabama 34, Miami 13
1991 Orange Miami 22, Nebraska 0
1990 Cotton Miami 46, Texas 3
1989 Sugar Miami 33, Alabama 25
1988 Orange Miami 23, Nebraska 3
1987 Orange Miami 20, Oklahoma 14
1986 Fiesta Penn State 14, Miami 10
1985 Sugar Tennessee 35, Miami 7
1984 Fiesta UCLA 39, Miami 37
1983 Orange Miami 31, Nebraska 30
1980 Peach Miami 20, Virginia Tech 10
1967 Bluebonnet Colorado 31, Miami 21
1966 Liberty Miami 14, Virginia Tech 7
1962 Gotham Nebraska 36, Miami 34
1961 Liberty Syracuse 15, Miami 14
1951 Gator Miami 14, Clemson 0
1950 Orange Clemson 15, Miami 14
1945 Orange Miami 13, Holy Cross 6
1934 Orange Bucknell 26, Miami 0
Wisconsin Bowl History (10-10)
2009 Champs Sports Florida St 42, Wisconsin 13
2008 Outback Tennessee 21, Wisconsin 17
2007 Capital One Wisconsin 17, Arkansas 14
2006 Capital One Wisconsin 24, Auburn 10
2005 Outback Georgia 24, Wisconsin 21
2003 Music City Auburn 28, Wisconsin 14
2002 Alamo Wisconsin 31, Colorado 28
2000 Sun Wisconsin 21, UCLA 20
1999 Rose Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9
1998 Rose Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31
1997 Outback Georgia 33, Wisconsin 6
1996 Copper Wisconsin 38, Utah 10
1994 Hall Of Fame Wisconsin 34, Duke 20
1993 Rose Wisconsin 21, UCLA 16
1984 Hall Of Fame Kentucky 20, Wisconsin 19
1982 Independence Wisconsin 14, Kansas State 3
1981 Garden State Tennessee 28, Wisconsin 21
1962 Rose USC 42, Wisconsin 37
1959 Rose Washington 44, Wisconsin 8
1952 Rose USC 7, Wisconsin 0