Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Malik Rosier (12)
1. The regular season ended with bitter disappointment for No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 11 Miami (Fla.) as their dreams of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff came crashing to a halt with poor showings in their conference championship games. The Orange Bowl will be a chance for redemption as the Badgers and Hurricanes try to end their seasons on a high note on Saturday, Dec. 30, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. – the home of the Hurricanes. The Badgers look to shake off their first loss of the season after they fell to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game – the second year in a row they lost while playing for the conference crown – while the Hurricanes try to bounce back from consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Clemson (in the ACC title game).
2. The Badgers and Hurricanes feature dominant game-changing defenses but they saved their worst performances for last, with both units shredded in their respective title games. Miami’s usually formidable defense barely put up a fight in giving up 38 points to Clemson – more than double the 18.3 points the Hurricanes allowed in their first 11 games – and Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant opened the contest with an ACC Championship Game-record 15 straight completions. Likewise, the Badgers were pushed around by Ohio State, and their defense – the nation’s stingiest in allowing 236.9 yards per game during its 12-0 start – gave up far too many big plays and yielded 449 total yards for the game, although the unit did limit the Buckeyes to just 140 after halftime.
3. It was a season that surpassed expectations in both Wisconsin and Miami, and Paul Chryst (Badgers) and Mark Richt (Hurricanes) were recognized for their accomplishments at the helms of their respective alma maters, tabbed as Coach of the Year for the Big Ten and ACC, respectively. Chryst guided the Badgers to their first 12-0 regular season in school history, while Richt’s Hurricanes made an even more dramatic climb to its first-ever ACC Coastal Division title and its first 10-win season since 2003. The Canes’ return to prominence fittingly ends with an appearance in the Orange Bowl, where they have played nine times (6-3) but not since 2004, while the Badgers, who defeated Miami 20-14 in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl in their only previous postseason encounter, are making their first-ever appearance.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Wisconsin -6.5.
ABOUT MIAMI (10-2, 7-1 ACC): Quarterback Malik Rosier accounted for 30 total touchdowns in 2017, tying Vinny Testaverde’s single-season school record (1986), and he appeared to really be coming into his own in big wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, but he – and the entire offense – looked lost and out of sorts in the back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Clemson. The offense ended up averaging a paltry 223 yards in those two setbacks, including just 74.5 on the ground, and it certainly didn’t help that two of the team’s top three pass catchers – tight end Christopher Herndon and receiver Ahmmon Richards – were lost for the season right before the title game. Still, the Hurricanes feed off their hungry, ball-hawking defense and the unit, which featured 16 different players wearing the famed “Turnover Chain” during the year, did not have the same disruptive impact in the two losses with just three total takeaways after forcing 19 in the prior five games.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (12-1, 9-0 Big Ten): Running back Jonathan Taylor burst onto the scene and into the record books this season with 1,847 rushing yards and he needs just 79 more to break Adrian Peterson’s single-season FBS freshman record set in 2004. Taylor, who finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting, is a huge key to the Badgers’ success and he was held to a season-low 41 yards by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, almost 110 yards less than the 150.5 yards he averaged entering the game. Like Miami, defense is the name of the game for Wisconsin and the Badgers’ tenacious defense, which ranked third in the nation with just 13.2 points allowed per game and scored six defensive touchdowns – tied for most in the country – in helping Wisconsin set a school record with 21 Badgers scoring a touchdown this season.