Miami vs. Wisconsin
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Time: Thursday, 4:15 PM CT, ESPN
Spread: MIA -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Miami Hurricanes finished its regular season 7-5, but it lost five of its final seven after beginning its season 5-1. The Hurricanes were 3rd in the ACC Coastal Division with its 4-4 mark in conference play. It will play the Wisconsin Badgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, where the Hurricanes enter as 2.5-point favorites in the game. It will air at 4:15 PM CT Thursday on ESPN, and it has an over/under of 47 points according to oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The Hurricanes boasted one of the stingiest and best defenses in the nation this year in holding opponents to just 18.2 points per game. Given Miami’s middle-of-the-pack offense, that was often good enough: The Hurricanes averaged 30.9 points per game on the shoulders of a rush attack that generated 197.3 yards per contest.
Miami’s backfield was led by Travis Homer’s 969 yards and four touchdowns. Homer also was good for 6.3 yards-per-carry on the season. No. 2 back DeeJay Dallas rushed for 608 yards and a team-tying lead of six touchdowns. Quarterback Malik Rosier finished No. 3 in yardage with 210 yards, but tied Dallas for the team-lead with six touchdowns via the rush.
Neither Rosier nor N’Kosi Perry was particularly strong passing the ball, as both managed to top 1,000 yards on the season but were just 51.6 and 53.5 percent each respectively in completion ratios. Perry struggled particularly badly in the season finale loss to Pitt, as he threw just 6 of 24 for completion and managed only 52 yards. Miami still won due to its defense holding the Panthers to a mere three points, but Perry’s performance has to be concerning on some level. Even so, the win over Pittsburgh was Miami’s lone win over an AP-Ranked opponent this season, with its only other matchup being a season-opening loss to then-No. 25 LSU. Although Miami found its way to a bowl game, it will require nothing but perfection from its defense to win as it is favored to.
The Wisconsin Badgers finished its regular season 7-5 but did land No. 2 in the Big Ten West division as it compiled a 5-4 mark in conference play. Wisconsin won three of its final six games, but it finished 0-2 against AP-Ranked opponents with losses to Michigan and Penn State this season. Wisconsin held its opponents to 24.3 points per game while scoring 29.3 itself, and it was an offense extremely reliant on its rush attack. The Badgers averaged 268.4 yards per game via the rush while generating just 164.8 via the pass.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook more than struggled in his junior season, taking several steps back from a decent 2017 campaign. His completion percentage plummeted from 62.3 percent a year ago to just 59.5 percent this year, and he had about half as many touchdowns in 2018 with just 13 on the year compared to 25 a year ago. His passer rating was over 16 points lower this season, and his RAW quarterback rating was a sad 40.7. Hornibrook threw three touchdowns in the season finale loss to Minnesota, and he has had four-straight games with two interceptions or more. Perhaps fortunately, Hornibrook will be held out of this game due to concussion symptoms the Miami Herald reported a week ago.
In his stead, the Badgers will turn to backup quarterback Jack Coan. He completed 61 percent of his passes, though he threw just 82 attempts this year and averaged 5.4 yards-per-pass. Coan is prone to be sacked often, and Miami’s relentless defense could give him some real problems. He suffered seven sacks despite playing a good bit less than half of what Hornibrook did.
Wisconsin’s offense was almost entirely reliant on the talents of running back Jonathan Taylor, who will probably see an even heavier load in this bowl game. He rushed 280 times for nearly 2,000 yards on the season with 15 touchdowns and an impressive 7.1 yard-per-carry average. The Badgers also got another 903 yards from its No. 2 and No. 3 backs, Taiwan Deal and Garrett Groshek. The Badgers averaged 6.3 yard-per-attempt as a team, though neither Hornibrook nor Coan were much of a rushing threat.
The two quarterbacks combined for 33 rushing attempts and a total loss of 104 yards on those plays. Expect Taylor to perhaps even see a season-high for rushing attempts, but ultimately the predictability and poor quarterback play of the Badgers will spell a likely loss to a Hurricanes team with a top defense, one well designed to put the pressure on both Wisconsin’s (struggling) quarterbacks and its backfield.