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Saturday, December 27th, 4:30 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Wisconsin Badgers and Florida State Seminoles will meet for the first-ever time on the gridiron this weekend, as they square off in the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.
The Badgers have been up and this season, starting off fast, slumping in the middle and finishing strong. The team's 7-5 record though, is a bit disappointing considering the high expectations entering the season. Wisconsin was even ranked as high as ninth at one point before enduring a four-game losing streak, one of its longest in recent memory. Still, the team ended the regular-season with three straight wins and nearly avoided disaster by outlasting Cal Poly, 36-35, in overtime in its finale.
"We try to win every football game, but for it to be our last game and the way the season has unfolded, it just says so much about our seniors and this entire team," head coach Bret Bielema said on his team's resiliency last game and on the year.
With that near upset averted, the Badgers are now ready to make a bowl appearance for the seventh consecutive season. Wisconsin in 10-9 all-time in postseason affairs and that includes a 21-17 setback to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl last season.
As for FSU, it is making its 27th straight bowl appearance, the longest active streak in the nation. Overall, the Seminoles have appeared in 37 prior bowl games, with 29 of those showings coming under head coach Bobby Bowden. The program owns a 21-14-2 all-time mark in these events, but is coming off a 35-28 setback to Kentucky in the 2007 Music City Bowl. FSU limps into this bowl, having dropped three of its final five games, including a 45-15 setback to rival Florida in its regular-season finale.
"That's the one good thing about the bowl game is that it gives you one more game to avenge yourself," Bowden stated about his team's ability to overcome the loss to Florida with a win this weekend.
The Badgers' chances of winning this game hinges on their ability to run the ball and they have done so effectively for most of the season. Wisconsin is gaining 212.0 of its 404.8 total ypg on the ground and it has scored 31 of its 41 offensive touchdowns via the run. P.J. Hill leads this powerful ground game with 1,021 yards and 13 touchdowns and the punishing back is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. John Clay has provided a nice complement to Hill and he checks in with 845 yards and nine scores behind an even better 5.9 yards per carry. Under center, the Badgers made the switch from Allan Evridge to Dustin Sherer after a 48-7 beating at the hands of Penn State on October 11th. Sherer though, hasn't exactly lit it up, completing only 54.3 percent of his pass attempts for 1,257 yards, with a mere five touchdowns against the same amount of picks. With FSU focusing on the run, Sherer is going to need to make some plays through the air if the Badgers hope to come out on top.
Wisconsin had some issues keeping opposing clubs off the scoreboard, allowing 25.2 ppg, despite surrendering only 322.3 total ypg. The defense has fared well versus both the run (133.2 ypg) and pass (189.1 ypg) and has come up with 22 takeaways as well. The team has even notched 21 sacks, but where it has really struggled is in the red-zone, allowing foes to score 92.0 percent of the time. Jaeve McFadden leads this unit in tackles with 79, while DeAndre Levy adds 65 stops and 7.5 TFls to the mix. Niles Brinkley is another player worth mentioning, as he leads the Badgers with four interceptions.
The Seminoles improved greatly on their ground game this season and they are currently averaging 182.8 rushing ypg. Antone Smith heads the charge with 753 yards and he certainly has a nose for the end zone, racking up 14 rushing touchdowns. The success on the ground was certainly needed, as the team had to overcome some inconsistent play from quarterback Christian Ponder, who threw 13 interceptions against only 12 touchdowns. Ponder, though, is a dual-threat, ranking third on the team with 404 rushing yards, to go with four more scores. When Ponder does decide to put the ball in the air, one of his first looks is to Greg Carr, who has made 31 catches for 464 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, FSU has been extremely stingy this season, limiting its opponent to a mere 291.8 total ypg. The unit has been tough against the run (126.8 ypg) as well as the pass (164.9 ypg) and has also had success bringing down opposing quarterbacks, racking up 36 sacks. Stopping teams on third down has also been a strength of this defense, which allowing foes to convert only 26 percent of the time. Derek Nicholson leads the defense with 76 stops on the year and he also has 15 TFLs to his credit. Everette Brown has provided FSU with a tremendous pass rusher, as he paces the club with 12.5 sacks and an impressive 20.5 TFLs.
Wisconsin's offense is one-dimensional and that will allow FSU to stack the box and stop the Badgers' stout run game. Offensively, the Seminoles should be able to do enough on the ground to earn the victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida State 31, Wisconsin 17
12/23 12:05:23 ET