Monday, December 28, 2009
Champs Sports Bowl preview
By ESPN.com staff
Here's a quick breakdown of Tuesday night's matchup between Miami and Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl:
WHO TO WATCH: Miami left tackle Orlando Franklin vs. Wisconsin defensive end O’Brien Schofield. Without injured veteran starter Jason Fox, Miami will turn to Franklin to help contain Schofield, who is leading the Badgers in sacks (10.0), tackles for a loss (22.5 for 116 yards) and quarterback hurries (8). Franklin, who moved from guard to tackle, played well in the season finale against South Florida, when he took over for Fox who was out with an illness.
WHAT TO WATCH: Miami’s run defense. The key to the Canes’ chances at a win will be slowing down Wisconsin’s top option, John Clay, whose 1,396 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground this year led the Big Ten. The Badgers are committed to the run, so it will be up to Miami’s leading linebackers, Colin McCarthy and Darryl Sharpton, to shed their blocks and make the stops. Miami is allowing 118.33 rushing yards per game, while Wisconsin averages 206.67 rushing yards.
WHY WATCH: A win over Wisconsin would give Miami its first double-digit win season since finishing 11-2 in 2003, and solidify a three-win improvement from last year under coach Randy Shannon. Earlier this season, Miami was in a position to earn an at-large BCS bid, and the Canes were able to defeat all of their nonconference opponents. This could be an important stepping stone for a young program looking to work its way back into national title contention.
PREDICTION: Miami’s speed, athleticism and multiple offensive options will be too much for Wisconsin to overcome. Clay will get his yards, and Wisconsin’s defense will force Jacory Harris to hang on to the ball longer than he would like at times, but Harris will have one of his calm-under-pressure fourth-quarter performances and lead Miami to a 31-28 win.