Monday, December 28, 2009

Champs Sports Bowl - Wisconsin Badgers v. Miami Hurricanes Preview

Sorry this is my first college post, there will be many more to follow in the New Year (may be even some from guest bloggers that attend those universities across the state of Wisconsin). On Tuesday, December 29th, 2009 the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Miami Hurricanes in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Floria. These two teams have played four times, their last meeting was a Miami victory in 1989 (the year before Barry "The Savior" Alvarez came to Wisconsin). The Badgers' last victory over Miami came in 1958.

All of the pre-game factors seem to favor Miami: better athletes, actually beat a ranked opponent this season, the game is being played in their home state and ranked higher than Wisconsin going into the game. All of those factors are thrown out the window at kick off. It will be the play of these five players for both teams that will determine whether Wisconsin or Miami win the game:

Top 5 Wisconsin Players:
#5) Chris Maragos (FS): has an interesting back story. After running into trouble in high school, Maragos turned things around and is the Tim Tebow of the Wisconsin Badgers. Reading player and coach interviews, everyone loves his positive attitude. Margos also sports one of the biggest Christian entourages in Wisconsin football history, aptly named the "21 club" after his jersey number. Margos will have more than 50 family and friends on hand for the game in Orlando. Margos's play on the field is impressive as well, he leads the team in interceptions with 4 and is 8th in the team in tackles with 44.

#4) Scott Tolzien (QB): has had a productive season: 192 for 302, 2445 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Tolzien has to embrace the Kyle Orton/Trent Dilfer style of play. As long as Tolzien makes a few positive plays and does not turn the ball over the Badgers will have a good chance to win. If Tolzien tries to win the game on his own, Badger fans will be in for a long night.

#3) Nick Toon (WR): the son of former Wisconsin great Al Toon, Nick has stepped out of his father's shadow to make his own legacy at Wisconsin. Toon is among the team leaders in every offensive receiving statistic: 52 receptions (1st), 779 receiving yards (1st) and 4 touchdowns (2nd). Along with tight end Garrett Graham, Toon gives quarterback Scott Tolzien viable receiving options that will challenge the Miami secondary.

#2) O'Brien Schofield (DE): is without question the best defensive player on the Badgers roster. Schofield leads the team in almost every defensive statistic: 59 tackles (3rd), 22.5 tackles for a loss (1st), 10 sacks (1st), 2 forced fumbles (2nd) and 1 fumble recovered (tied for 2nd). In order for Wisconsin to win, it is imperative that Schofield is disruptive in the Miami backfield.

#1) John Clay (RB): has put up absolutely gaudy statistics this season: 1,396 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per attempt and 16 rushing touchdowns. After being the cover boy on Sports Illustrated's "Year in Pictures" issue, Clay is being mentioned as a potential 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate. A big game against Miami will get that campaign started on the right foot.

Top 5 Miami Players:
#5) Orlando Franklin (LT): senior left tackle Jason Fox will miss the game after having knee surgery. Fox was the 3rd most tenured player in Miami Hurricanes history. His replacement, left guard Orlando Franklin, will have some big shoes to fill. Franklin played left tackle for Miami in their regular season finale and preformed fairly well. The more interesting position to watch is who fills in at left guard, all signs point to freshman Brandon Washington.

#4) Leonard Hankerson (WR): leads Miami in receptions (44), receiving yards (773), yards per reception (17.6) and touchdowns (6). Hankerson uses his height (6'3") to create mismatches in the secondary. Unless Wisconsin can disrupt Hankerson's timing and routes, they will have a tough time defending any jump ball thrown his way.

#3) Daryl Sharpton (MLB): leads a good Miami defense in tackles with 91 and is third on the team in tackles for a loss with 7. Sharpton is a physically imposing linebacker that helps pace the 25th ranked defense in the nation that averaged giving up 321 yards this season.

#2) Brandon Harris (CB): has put up some impressive statistics as a cornerback: 52 tackles (3rd on the team), 6 tackles for a loss (tied for 5th on the team), 1 sack (tied for 5th on the team), 2 forced fumbles (tied for 1st on the team), 2 interceptions (tied for 1st on the team) and 16 passes defended (1st on the team by a mile, almost more than the rest of the team combined). Only a sophomore, Harris (much like the rest of the Miami roster) is a physically gifted athlete that is destined to play on Sundays in the NFL.

#1) Jacory Harris (QB): after an impressive start to the season Harris vaulted into the Heisman discussion but his up and down play in the middle of the season along with a few Miami losses quickly knocked him out of that discussion. Although Harris has thrown 23 touchdowns, he has also thrown almost as many interceptions (17). Earlier in the week Harris said he was having trouble with his thumb on his throwing hand. The Badgers are a mediocre pass defense team (ranked 66th in the nation) so the health of Harris's thumb might go a long way to determining the winner of the Champs Sports Bowl.

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