2009 Champs Sports Bowl Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 12/23/2009
2009 Champs Sports Bowl
Miami (-3, 58) vs. Wisconsin
Tuesday, December 29, 8 pm
The Champs Sports Bowl has been in existence since 1990, but it hasn't exactly had a smooth history - this is the eighth different name that it has had in that time, and it has gone through five different sponsors. Wisconsin brings their cheese into the sunshine, and into Miami's backyard, to play this bowl game in Orlando. They'll have no problem finding the way - they played in the same bowl game last year. That didn't go particularly well for them - they were blown out by Florida State - so they will be looking to extract some revenge on the state of Florida this time around.
They don't need to worry about playing here yet again next year because the Big Ten will be replaced by the Big East next year. Miami hasn't been to this bowl for a long time, but they have had success in the past - they won lopsided versions of the game in both 1996 and 1998.
On the surface these two teams are strikingly similar. They are both 9-3, they both won four of their last five games, and both have solid coaches that are working to build their programs up to elite levels. Statistically, the teams are a good match as well. Wisconsin has the 34th-ranked offense in the country by yards gained, while Miami is right behind at 36th. Wisconsin averages 32.8 points per game, while Miami scores 31.7. Defensively, Wisconsin allows just 10 fewer yards per game than Miami, and they have allowed virtually the same number of points - 22.4 to 22.3. The teams play very different styles, but they have achieved eerily similar results.
The teams have met twice in the past. The good news for the Hurricanes is that they won both games so they have the historical edge. The bad news is that those games were back in 1988 and 1989 so they mean absolutely nothing. This is the first time Miami has played a Big Ten team since the 2002 Championship game against Ohio State. You'll remember that game from the truly horrific leg injury Willis McGahee suffered.
Motivation shouldn't be an issue for either team. Miami has had a very strong year - the best in a while for this program. QB Jacory Harris had a solid year, and he'll go into next year on every Heisman watch list there is. The team is optimistic and looking forward to a very strong season next year, so they will be motivated to get a win here to start things on the right note. Wisconsin hasn't won a bowl game since 2006, and that was Bret Bielema's first year as coach. He'll be very keen to win again to build for next year as well. Ten wins is a big milestone for any team, so the stakes are high here.
Wisconsin sophomore running back John Clay was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and he is the centerpiece of a relentless running game for Wisconsin. Needless to say, Miami will have to contain the run if they want to win. Wisconsin has a clear edge on the lines, as their beefy offensive line should be able to handle Miami's defensive front. Miami's best run stoppers are in the linebacking corps, and that means that Clay and company will have room to get rolling before Miami is able to contain them. The Badgers have an edge here, and they need to exploit it to come out ahead.
Miami is a solid running team as well, but it's less likely that they will be able to establish this aspect of their game. The offensive line is inconsistent at best, and Wisconsin has a stout defensive front seven that can manhandle outmatched offensive lines, and which gets to the ball impressively quickly. That means that QB Jacory Harris will have to carry the load for his team. Miami has a clear edge in speed and athleticism and will be attempting to exploit that. Harris will have to be quick on his feet, though, because Wisconsin will be harassing him all game. Harris is a streaky quarterback, so the game will come down to whether Harris can establish a rhythm.
The player to watch will be Miami left tackle Orlando Franklin. He's been forced into starting because of an injury to starter Jason Fox, and he is going to have his hands full lining up against Wisconsin DE O'Brien Schofield. If Schofield, who is big and strong, has a nice game then Harris will be in trouble. If Franklin is up to the challenge, though, then Miami stands a good chance.
Line Value and Champs Sports Bowl Odds
Miami is the clear choice of the betting public, with three quarters of bets being placed on their side. That has had the predictable effect on the line. The opening number was two, but it quickly moved to the key number of three, and is now widely available at 3.5 online. A move through the key number of three is always significant, so it seems likely that smart money isn't disagreeing with the public on this one. At least not yet. The total opened at 56 and has been on a gradual climb since.
Champs Sports Bowl Predictions
I'm going to have to go against the public here. If both teams were at their best then I would probably side with Miami. The injury to Fox is a concern, though, and so is the potential issues that Miami will have against the run. This one should be close, but being able to take the Badgers and get 3.5 points as well is too much to resist. Wisconsin is my pick here.
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