2017 Orange Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Miami
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Miami Hurricanes, Saturday Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET
This is a bowl game all about what could have been. Both of these teams faltered when it mattered most, and they both could have been playoff teams if they had been just a little tougher. Miami was unbeaten through 11 games, but they must have been looking ahead to the ACC Championship Game they had already clinched a spot in because they didn't show up in the regular-season finale against Pitt and suffered a crushing loss. They could have saved themselves with a win over Clemson, but they pouted their way into that game and fell way, way short - the game was possibly even less competitive than the 38-3 score suggests. Wisconsin came even closer to the promised land, running the table in the regular season. Their schedule was laughably soft, though, so the only way they were getting into the playoff was by beating Ohio State to win the Big Ten. It was a tight game, but they couldn't get it done, losing by six and winding up here as a result. On the line here is a definite Top 10 ranking - and quite possibly higher than that - for the winner.
Orange Bowl Betting Storylines
Wisconsin's defense is very tough to evaluate. In terms of statistics they are very good - first nationally in both total yards and rushing yards, fourth in passing yards, and third in points allowed. They have not played anything close to an impressive schedule, though, so those numbers don't mean nearly as much as they could. The two best teams they faced were Northwestern and Ohio State. The Wildcats scored 24 points, and the Buckeyes had 27. Ohio State ran for 238 yards in their winning effort, and while Northwestern couldn't run at all they did move the ball through the air well. Miami doesn't have one standout aspect of their offense, but they are balanced and competent. That gives them the opportunity to mix things up in an attempt to find a way to do some damage.
Miami has to figure out how to deal with freakish freshman running back Jonathan Taylor. Only two runners all-time have had more yards as a freshman than the 1,806 that Taylor has amassed to date - all-world Heisman winner and fellow Badger Ron Dayne and some guy named Adrian Peterson. Because Taylor has been so effective, the Badgers are very good at keeping the ball, slowing down the game, and grinding down their opponent. They were third nationally in time of possession this year, which is another reason their defense did well - they were well rested. Miami got where they are this year largely because of that uncanny ability to cause turnovers. They are going to have to work some of that magic and get the ball away from the Badgers so the game can be played at Miami's pace. It's far from certain that Taylor will have a huge day despite his big numbers, though. He has really slowed down. After scoring 11 times in his first seven games, he has just two touchdowns in his last six games. He had 132 or better yards four times in those six games, so he was still productive, but opponents figured out how to keep him out of the endzone.
Orange Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Wisconsin favored by 6.5 points, and it has mostly stayed at that level, though six points is now starting to be available in spots . A solid majority of bets have been on Wisconsin, so the line movement suggests that sharp money is backing Miami quite aggressively. The total opened at 45.5 and has fallen slightly to 45 in early action.
Wisconsin is an impressive 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games away from home, and they have covered their last six spreads played on grass. They have gone "under" the total in seven of their last 10 nonconference games. Miami is 6-2 ATS in their last eight nonconference games but just 2-6 ATS in their last eight games overall. They are 1-5 ATS in their last six bowl games. They have gone under the total in their last four bowl games and 45 of their last 65 games overall.
Wisconsin vs. Miami Orange Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
I have all sorts of concerns in this game. On one hand I am concerned about Wisconsin's lack of real competition. But while I respect Miami's schedule a little more, I am concerned about their total lack of effort last time out, and whether they will show up in a game that isn't as important as that last one is an uncertainty. I think that this game feels close - to close to call decisively - which means that Miami and a good number of points is the bet here.
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