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10 things to know about Wisconsin vs. Miami in the Orange Bowl

Wisconsin and Miami will clash in Miami for all the oranges you can handle, here are 10 things to know about this year’s Orange Bowl.



It is nearly time for the Wisconsin Badgers to take on the Miami Hurricanes in Miami…only they’ll be considering this a neutral site game. Yes, that’s because we’re talking about playing the Orange Bowl and not just a regular matchup.

But, these aren’t two unfamiliar programs as the Badgers and Hurricanes have gotten together four times in history. That includes a win by Wisconsin in the last meeting between these two teams — the 2009 Champ Sports Bowl.

It’s been nearly a decade though and things have changed a lot of both programs since then. Mark Richt was coaching at Georgia, while Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst was on the sideline for that game as the Badgers offensive coordinator.

Given all the changes, how do we see this game playing out? Here are 10 things for you to know as the Badgers and Hurricanes clash at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 30.


1. Miami (FL) leads the nation in sacks per game

While the “turnover chain” gets all of the attention with the Hurricanes difference, there’s little doubt this is a dominant defense overall. The fact that the Hurricanes rank No. 1 in the country in sacks should also be of note. Miami has been able to rack up an average of 3.58 sacks per game. On the flip side, Wisconsin is giving up just 1.54 sacks per game to rank 37th nationally. Winning the line of scrimmage in the pass game is going to be fun to watch.

2. Wisconsin is making its second-straight appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game

Sometimes experience in these high-profile games can matter, and the Badgers have that advantage in a major way. In fact, this will be Wisconsin’s 16th straight year making a bowl game, which is the longest streak in the Big Ten and the sixth-longest streak in the country. Will that experience matter? It will be interesting, as Miami will be making its first appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

3. Badgers RB Jonathan Taylor is 3rd in the country in rushing

When anyone thinks of Wisconsin Badgers football, the first thing that comes to mind is great college running backs. The Badgers found another nationally elite back in freshman Jonathan Taylor, who is third in the country with 142.1 yards per game. He’s got 1,847 yards already on the year and needs just 79 yards to break the single-season freshman rushing record. Can he do it against a Miami defense that is allowing 146 yards per game?

4. Miami will be 4th ranked opponent for Badgers this season

For all the talk of a weak schedule, this will be the fourth time in the last five games that the Badgers have faced a ranked opponents. UW has won two of the previous three though, destroying Iowa and getting past Michigan before a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. So, while the Hurricanes are one of the best teams the Badgers have seen, it isn’t as if they weren’t tested at a ll during the year.

5. Both Miami and Wisconsin are .500 in bowl game play

For what it is worth, these two teams are both pretty average when it comes to bowl game experience. Miami comes in at 10-10 in 20 bowl game experiences, while the Badgers are 14-14. However, Miami has won just one bowl game since 2006 and that was a win over No. 16 West Virginia in last season’s Russell Athletic Bowl. Wisconsin has won three straight, holding wins over Auburn, USC and an undefeated Western Michigan.

6. No player has worn the infamous Miami “turnover chain” more than six times on the season

Defensive back Jaquan Johnson leads all Hurricanes players in individual takeaway awards this season, earning the turnover chain on six different occasions. Given all the turnovers that Miami has created, it just goes to show that this is a group hell-bent on turnover creation. In total, 16 different players have worn the turnover chain for Miami this year.

What should be really scary for Badgers fans is the fact that not only is the leader of the turnover race a defensive back, so is the second place man — Michael Jackson — who has worn the turnover chain on five occasions this season. With Hornibrook’s propensity to turn the ball over (15 interceptions), this is a worry spot for UW in this game and a potentially huge advantage for Miami.

7. Miami won 7 games in ACC play for the first time this year

It has been a season of firsts for the Hurricanes with Mark Richt fully in control of the program. That season of first’s includes winning 7 conference games for the first time as a member of the ACC. That 7-1 record in conference play led the Hurricanes to the ACC championship game for the first time as well, losing to No. 1 Clemson in Charlotte. But, getting to the championship game was a hurdle that needed to be knocked down first, and that’s what Richt’s team finally did this season.

8. Wisconsin has allowed just 8 touchdowns over the last 8 games

One way the Badgers defense has been able to be recognized as an elite group has been in its ability to keep opponents out of the end zone. That was put front and center over the last 8 games, as the Badgers defense has given up just 8 total touchdowns (including pick sixes) over the last 8 games. That’s impressive, but it wasn’t a fluke either, as UW tied with Alabama for the fewest touchdowns allowed with just 15 over the course of 13 games this season. In fact, 6 of 13 opponents were held to 10 points or less in 2017.

9. That’s the number of games in which RB Jonathan Taylor has seen action in the 4th quarter this season

The fact that Jonathan Taylor has played in the fourth quarter in just nine of 13 games should be a pretty good indicator of just how dominate his season has been. It should also tell you a lot about just how big the margin of victory for the Badgers has been the majority of the year too. In fact, Taylor has only touched the ball 38 times in the fourth quarter all season long.

If he’s in in the fourth quarter, it is likely the Badgers aren’t in control of this game and if you aren’t seeing him in the final stanza, you can bet the scoreline is already out of control. Either way, his playing time in the fourth quarter is a good indicator of how the game is going.

10. Jonathan Taylor is second in the country in runs of 10 yards or more

It’s one thing to rack up a ton of carries and go over the 1,000-yard mark, it’s a completely different thing to do what Jonathan Taylor has done with his 273 carries. He’s not only been able to carry most of the load, he’s also been a dynamic running back. So much so that he’s second in the country in runs of over 10 yards. Taylor has posted 57 runs of 10-plus yards and only Florida Atlantic RB Devin Singletary (60) has more this season.

Miami’s defense has allowed 64 rushes of 10-plus yards this season, with just 17 of them going for 20-plus yards though. That means it may be tougher sledding than usual for Taylor and the Badgers backfield.

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Badgers football

Chryst excited by Graham Mertz’s future with Badgers



No recruit has ever been as hyped as quarterback Graham Mertz has been in Wisconsin Badgers history.

Normally that would lead to coaches tempering their words and expectations. Given head coach Paul Chryst’s history of exactly that, it was a bit surprising to hear him speak with excitement about what Mertz may bring to the table in Madison.

So far, Chryst has been very impressed with how Mertz is handling everything on and off the field.

“Yeah, Graham has got a great personality,” said Chryst at Big Ten media day on Friday. “I think he’s done a nice job of — he came in the spring, and getting to know our teammates, and I think he’s handling — there’s a lot of buzz and talk about him, and I think he’s handled it well, and I think the team has handled it, as well.”

What has impressed the head coach most about his freshman quarterback? Chryst says it is how he is handling everything that has been thrown at him since he entered school in January.

“They’re experiencing a lot for the first time, going to school and being away from home, and there’s obviously a ton of football with it, and I think all three have handled it, and Graham has handled it well, and I’m excited for those three, Graham in particular, that went through spring and then you have summer and now they’ll be able to go into fall camp and it’s not all new to them,” said Chryst.

“But I’ve been impressed with how Graham has handled himself, and I think he’s — again, cares a lot about teammates and is a good teammate himself, a good person, and I think that’s a great place to start.”

Perhaps the most telling statement from Chryst during his time at the podium on Friday, was the one where he actually used the words “excitement” and “Graham” in the same sentence.

“And certainly we’re excited, really excited about Graham,” Chryst said to the media. “He’s early in on the process, and so I like the group that we have. I’m thankful that we’ve got Jack coming back that’s played in games, and certainly looking forward to fall camp and seeing the growth and development of all of them.”

Does that mean Mertz is the immediate savior of the Badgers offense? No.

But, unlike years past, Chryst is at least willing to go out on a limb and live in the excitement of what could happen in the future.

This type of talk should only serve to continue to spark the speculation and the spotlight on the quarterback position in Madison in the next few weeks.

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Badgers football

Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers quarterbacks in 2019



Believe it or not, the start of the Wisconsin Badgers fall camp is right around the corner and we’re hitting the home stretch of our preview season as well.

Previous Positions:Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver | Outside Linebacker | Inside Linebacker |

No position has had more of the spotlight and taken up more of our conversation than what is happening at quarterback. After watching the QB play go from ok to disaster in 2018, it is back to the drawing board in many ways.

With Alex Hornibrook off to Florida State for his final season and the highest rated quarterback recruit in Badgers history on campus, this offseason has been full of intrigue.

But, what will the 2019 season look like for the most critical position on this offense? Let’s take a look at exactly that.

Best Case Scenario

The Badgers find out they hit the jackpot with Graham Mertz and he’s spent the time between spring and fall ball getting up to speed on the offense. Mertz immediately shows this is his job and the coaching staff sees it quickly as well.

Either that or Jack Coan comes in and commands the position and the offense with accuracy and an ability to hit the deep ball. The offense gels around him and heading in to the opener at South Florida, Coan is the man behind center by a wide margin.

Yes, there are two best-case scenarios at play. But, that’s because Wisconsin’s coaching staff would really love for someone to flat-out win the starting job early on in fall camp. Will that happen? That’s the million dollar question and don’t count out Chase Wolf from this competition either. He came on strong as spring went along and his abilities give the Badgers offense some different wrinkles that could be intriguing.

No matter whom wins the battle in fall camp, the best case scenario is that that person wins the battle early, the offense can focus on installing around that quarterback and said quarterback shows why he won the job with quality play during the season.

Worst Case Scenario

If we go in to week three of fall camp and there is no winner to the quarterback job, I’m not so confident in this group. Yes, it’s the job of everyone to compete at a high level, but the coaching staff not being able to separate between the bunch isn’t good news.

My worst-case scenario would be no winner coming out of fall camp, we see quarterbacks splitting time in the fall and this offense stalling out in the pass game once again.

Musical chairs at quarterback never seems to work at Wisconsin and that especially played out last season with Coan clearly thrown to the wolves before he was ready to make a full impact after Hornibrook’s injury.

As long as the Badgers can avoid having to play multiple quarterbacks because none of them have wrestled the position for themselves, UW’s offense should be in a better position in 2019 than it was in 2018.

Most Likely to Happen

As much as the fans want to see Graham Mertz come in and be this game-changing quarterback out of the gate, the most likely scenario is that Mertz gets some game action in the non-conference games and Jack Coan is your regular starter.

I can foresee the scenario playing out much like Coan’s true freshman season. The only difference being that Mertz won’t have to give up his redshirt to play in a single game.

It seems like the most likely to happen scenario is that Coan is your starter for the year with Mertz as the man getting the early season reps behind him and then Chase Wolf being the other option to get reps during conference play.

Let’s not forget that Coan is the only quarterback on this roster that has seen more than a complete mop-up duty. Danny Vanden Boom could be an option too, but it seems like Wolf and Mertz passed him up in the spring competition.

As much as Mertz is the future, coaches are paid to win games now and that likely means playing it safe with Coan.

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Badgers football

Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers ILB’s in 2019



We hope you enjoyed the Independence Day holiday, but it is time to get back to some business and that means continuing our series looking in to every position group for the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver | Outside Linebacker |

Since we went outside the last time around, today we will focus on a position that has long been a strength of the Badgers program — inside linebacker.

What could happen with this group in 2019? Let’s find out.

Best Case Scenario

Yes, the Badgers face life without an All-American and a steady veteran thanks to the graduations of T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. But, the good news is that this group was one of the deepest and most productive overall last season.

Veteran Chris Orr will get one starting spot and former 4-star recruit Jack Sanborn will step in to the other starting role. So, the best case scenario for this group is that Orr, who started as a freshman, gets back to that kind of form, and we see quality play from a combination of younger players like Sanborn and freshman Leo Chenal.

No one had a bigger breakout this spring than Chenal did. He came in as an early enrollee, but well under the radar. By the end of spring ball, it looked very much like he won’t be redshirting and will be challenging for a lot of snaps in the fall.

It would be great to see that happen, because Orr has just one year left in the Cardinal and White.

Worst Case Scenario

What would really hurt this group is if Orr or Sanborn were to go down with an injury here. Yes, Chenal looked good in spring ball like I mentioned before and yes Mike Maskalunas has shown flashes of ability, but are they really ready to be thrust in to the majority of snaps at inside linebacker together?

Experience is an issue for this group and I could see an injury exposing that lack of experience in a big way. Even if the Badgers wanted to go with an older player, the only other option would be Seth Currens and he just converted from safety in the spring himself.

Other than that it would be Hunter Johnson or two walk-ons that were here in the spring.

The Badgers only inside linebacker recruit in the 2019 class was Chenal too, so there will be no more help coming in to fall camp.

Most Likely to Happen

The good news is that I don’t see the worst case scenario actually happening, at least not in a major way. Orr’s medical history suggests he could be prone to missing a game or two with a nagging injury, but don’t expect anything crazy to happen.

I also believe we will see the emergence of Sanborn and Chenal as the future of this position for the Badgers. In fact, Sanborn has looked so good in spring and in his limited playing time last season, that I suspect he could be a darkhorse for All-Big Ten honors at season’s end.

Look for this group to be a downhill, hard-hitting and more athletic group than we saw last season and that could make a major difference for those playing behind them.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and his staff have a lot to figure out, but they should feel safe with the talent that is available to them at inside linebacker.

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Badgers football

Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers OLB’s in 2019



This time next month, the pads may be popping and the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers fall practices will be under way. It’s so close we all can almost taste it.

But, as we look forward to the 2019 season we’re going to try something a bit different. Gone are the usual ways of looking position groups and giving you a fall preview that last’s a week.

Well, that’s because this season is vital to the Paul Chryst era. There’s a changing of the guard going on. After a disappointing 2018 season that saw UW drop Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 15 years and not win the Big Ten West, the question is if that’s a sign of decline or a blip on the radar.

In order to best answer that question, we’re actually going to start with a look at what needs to happen, what the Badgers need to avoid and what is really likely at every position.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver

Up today is a look at the outside linebacker position.

Best Case Scenario:

Last year, the outside linebackers contributed just 8 total sacks to a team total of 19. That’s a lot of contribution to the effort, but the effort was far below expectations set by previous groups. Additionally, the graduation of Andrew Van Ginkel means just 2.5 sacks return from the outside linebacker position in 2019.

Those sacks belong to Zack Baun, who got his feet wet as a starter last season and is looking for big things to happen in 2019. The good news is that Baun was one of Wisconsin’s best run-stoppers on the edge.

Ideally, Baun not only is a leader of this defensive group in 2019, but becomes much more disruptive behind the line of scrimmage too.

Wisconsin has a lot of potential that could start opposite of him. Former Alabama transfer Christian Bell, former 4-star recruit Noah Burks and former inside linebacker Griffin Grady all had their moments of shine in spring ball.

In a best case scenario, the Badgers have more than one of that group step up as contributors to an overall group of outside linebackers that don’t have a lot of in-game experience or depth.

Getting this group to contribute double-digit sacks as a whole would be a great step forward.

Worst Case Scenario:

Noah Burks or Christian Bell don’t live up to their enormous potential. It’s as plain and simple as that.

Wisconsin needs them to become pass-rushing specialists in a big way if this defense is going to be as aggressive as it is designed to be. Often times last season, the inability of the front seven to get pressure really hung an inexperienced secondary out to dry.

If UW experiences more of that, it could really be trouble in 2019. The Badgers need this defense to step up its game, and having both of the expected top contenders in replacing Van Ginkel flame out would be a disaster all the way around.

Most Likely to Happen:

Given all the unknowns surrounding the outside linebacker position, this is a difficult position to predict. However, I will say this — Zack Baun will end up as an All-Big Ten performer.

I believe he just scratched the surface of his potential last year, especially since he was just coming off an awful injury history prior to it. If he stays healthy in 2019, I predict he becomes a surprise player to many outside observers in the Big Ten.

That said, I also believe we will see Christian Bell and Noah Burks become a handful for opposing offensive coordinators to deal with. Both have been patient with the talent that was in front of them, but they are bursting with potential when they have seen the field.

So, to answer the question most want to know…I believe this all signals a position group ready to be a major force once again after that down year in 2018.

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