This is the third in a series of stories breaking down the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl between No. 14 Miami and No. 25 Wisconsin, which will be played Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Miami Special Teams
The Hurricanes boast the ACC's top kicker, junior Matt Bosher who was first team All-ACC after making 14-of-16 kicks this season, including his last 12. He also made all 48 of his extra point attempts. Bosher can do it all. He was also named second team All-ACC as a punter by averaging 42.7 yards per kick while putting 22-of-45 kicks inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Graig Cooper returns kicks for the Canes and averaged 25 yards per return this season, which was good for fourth in the ACC.
But that's where the positives of UM's special teams unit end. Miami struggled covering kickoffs all season and allowed three blocked punts.
Wisconsin Special Teams
No doubt the weakness of the Badgers, Bret Bielema's special teams unit struggled for the third straight season. UW averaged a putrid 7.6 yards per punt return and only put 19.6 yards per kick return.
To make matters worse, kicker Philip Welch went into a sophomore slump and only made 15-of-22 attempts this season. He did, however, make 11-of-14 during Big Ten play, which was the second best percentage in Big Ten play. Sophomore punter Brad Nortman was solid all season long, but he wasn't as sharp as his freshman season either. UW was ranked in the middle of the national rankings in net punting.
UW blocked two punts for touchdowns this season. Both freshmen David Gilbert and Chris Borland made acrobatic leaping blocks that were returned for touchdowns. J.J. Watt blocked a field goal against Michigan.
Who has the edge?
It's a good question. While the offenses and defenses are relatively even because they are strong units, neither Wisconsin nor Miami boast particularly strong special teams units.
Miami's poor coverage on kickoffs this season bodes well for Wisconsin, but the Badgers were also prone to giving up big returns this season. UW should be encouraged by David Gilreath's performance on punt returns late in the season, after the junior endured an awful 10-game stretch to start the season.
It appears Phillip Welch has returned to his freshman form and while Bosher only missed two kicks this season, he only attempted 16.
UW's knack for blocking kicks this season gives them the slight edge over a team that is prone to blocked punts. A big play like that could be the difference in the game.
The Verdict: Wisconsin has the edge. Yes, you are reading that correctly. Bielema's special teams unit actally has the edge against an opponent -- and good one at that. Miami's special teams has been worse than UW's all season long and Bosher's performace isn't enough to even things out because he doesn't kick that many field goals.