Miami (10–2) will challenge Wisconsin (12–1) on both sides of the ball. Offensively, UW will have to attempt to run the ball on an athletic front seven that will make it an objective to contain Doak Walker Award finalist Jonathan Taylor while also trying to play takeaway with the pigskin.
On the opposite side, Miami has playmakers at the skill positions with Malik Rosier, Travis Homer, and Braxton Berrios to give Wisconsin fits. Jim Leonhard’s defense cannot make the same mistakes it made 28 days ago against the Buckeyes.
Here are our keys to the game:
Wisconsin’s offense vs. Miami’s turnover-happy defense
This may seem like the obvious one, but Wisconsin cannot shoot itself in the foot against Manny Diaz’s unit on Saturday. The Miami defense is second in the nation in turnovers generated (30) and turnover margin.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has thrown 15 interceptions and Taylor has lost a handful of fumbles this year. Can Paul Chryst’s offense prevent the Turnover Chain from coming out on the Hurricanes’ sideline? Miami has scored 72 points off of turnovers.
Wisconsin’s offense vs. Miami’s front seven
The offensive line cannot repeat their Big Ten Championship game performance, where the Badgers gained a season-low 60 yards on 32 carries and a long of seven yards against Ohio State. If Hornibrook throws as much as he did against OSU, it will not be a good sign down in Miami against a Hurricanes unit allowing 146.1 yards on the ground.
From our Q&A with State of the U’s Cam Underwood:
In this game, Miami is going to probably employ a similar game plan to what was seen vs Notre Dame: stack the box to stop the run, pressure the QB with blitzes and stunts, and force an average QB to make plays. If Wisconsin can block effectively and give Hornibrook time, there may be plays to hit down the field (even if it's a slant and run after the catch). Miami takes pride in stopping RBs, and have done so repeatedly this season. If Miami is able to keep Jonathan Taylor contained, then the Canes should have the advantage versus Wisconsin's passing game.
Despite the rough outing against the Buckeyes, the Badgers still average about 229 yards on the ground this season, something they’ll need to replicate against the Hurricanes this weekend.
When asked for Miami analysis on Dec. 16, redshirt sophomore David Edwards said he watched some of the film from the Hurricanes’ big win against Notre Dame in November.
“I think they’re going to pose a lot of challenges similar to Ohio State,” Edwards said. “They’ve got a lot of athletic big guys. They’re going to be kind of like the same defense with a four down front. A lot of similarities between the two so it should be another great challenge for us.”
Wisconsin’s defense vs. the potential explosiveness of Miami’s offense
The ACC power averages 245.8 yards per game through the air and nearly 160 on the ground. Homer gained over 900 yards on six yards per carry, and Wisconsin, like it normally has this season, will have to control the line of scrimmage to force Miami to be one-dimensional.
As Underwood told B5Q on Friday, however, Miami is quite explosive:
The biggest strength of Miami's offense is their explosiveness. Miami averages 6.20 yards per play, tied for 30th in the country. With speedsters like Homer, Berrios, freshmen Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley and DeeJay Dallas, Miami can score from anywhere. On top of that, Miami has a variety of skill players who can make plays when you add in Lawrence Cager, Dayall Harris, Michael Irvin II and Trayone Gray to the group I already mentioned. Even without Walton, Richards, and Hernron IV, Miami has talent at the skill positions.
Back on Dec. 19, the defense had just started to begin preparation but noted what Miami could bring, and more importantly what Wisconsin has to do to contain the Hurricanes.
“One thing that stands out is that they’re very athletic,” Garret Dooley said then, “so that’s just kind of something where we have to just try to gang tackle and not have a lot of one-on-one tackles because they’re very good in open space.”
When asked about how the Miami offense compares to Ohio State’s scheme, Leonhard likened the offense to the Buckeyes in terms of the athletes on the field but also Penn State from last year.
“A lot of spread. Three-wide receiver sets, looks like four wides a lot of times,” Leonhard said. “They spread you out and let those athletes go to work. Very talented tailbacks and a quarterback that’s been very productive for them. You add that all together, that makes a pretty good football game.”
How will Rosier play?
Miami’s redshirt junior quarterback has thrown for 243 yards per game with 25 touchdowns, along with rushing for 427 yards and five touchdowns this season.
“He’s a very mobile guy. He’s not as physical as [Ohio State quarterback J.T.] Barrett,” Leonhard said. “Barrett is 220 [pounds], downhill, tailback type when he runs the ball. Rosier’s a little different that way, but he’s very capable in the run game to gash you and get big plays so you have to be aware of him at all times.”
Rosier has also thrown 11 interceptions and completed only 55 percent of his passes. If Wisconsin can force Miami into third-and-long situations, along with making “The U” one-dimensional in throwing the ball, it could be an interesting evening at Hard Rock Stadium.
From Underwood’s assessment of Rosier:
He has been inferno hot or arctic cold this year, with no in-between. Rosier is good running and can be a factor by using his legs, but he can hurt the team with his decision-making, and inability to hit open receivers. You mentioned it earlier, but just look at the Pittsburgh game for evidence of that. All the skill guys in the world, and all the open space in the world, mean nothing if the QB can't hit them with the football. We'll see if Good Malik or Bad Malik shows up on Saturday. And, if it's "Bad Malik" to start, we'll also see if he can change things up in the 2nd half of the game, something he did on numerous occasions this season.