We have three bowl games to look forward to on Thursday, but one of them looks to be head and shoulders above the rest. The Miami Hurricanes will travel north to Yankee Stadium to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Both of these squads entered the season with big ambitions and secure spots in the AP Top 25. The Badgers checked in at #4 at the start of the season, while the Hurricanes were ranked #8. Neither team lived up to their preseason billing, as they struggled to matching records of 7-5.
Disappointments of the regular season aside, we should still be treated to a solid game in an iconic venue. We also have a late wrinkle added to the mix to consider as it has been announced that Badgers signal caller Alex Hornibrook will be out for this one as he tends to a head injury.
That’s a positive for the Hurricanes, a program that is looking to close out a challenging year on a high note. Let’s break down this year’s edition of the Pinstripe Bowl in full detail, starting with the game line.
Miami vs. Wisconsin, 5:15 PM EST, Thur. December 27, ESPN
Miami vs. Wisconsin pick:
The Hurricanes opened up the season with a big matchup versus LSU, a team that entered the contest ranked #25, and wound up coming up short by a score of 33-17. The Hurricanes rebounded the following week for a 77-0 thrashing of Savannah, a game which marked the start of a five-game winning streak. Things didn’t go swimmingly from that point, as Miami dropped four straight before rebounding to win its final two games.
The Badgers started off the season well enough with a mark of 4-1, with its lone loss over that span coming in a 24-21 upset defeat at the hands of BYU. Wisconsin spent the rest of the year trading wins and losses, as the team struggled mightily in conference play. For the season, Wisconsin closed out 2018 with a 5-4 conference record, which was tied for second place in the Big Ten West division with Iowa and Purdue.
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After rebounding from the loss to LSU with a lengthy winning streak, it looked like Miami was going to still be able to make some noise in the ACC. That line of thinking proved to be off the mark. The Hurricanes also struggled in conference play, finishing up the year at 4-4. That relegated the team to a tie for third place in the ACC Coastal division with Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but a preseason ranking of #4 was far too ambitious for the 2018 Badgers. Four of its five losses came to conference opponents, including Michigan and Northwestern. The team’s season-ending home loss to Minnesota may have been the most eyebrow-raising of them all, as the Golden Gophers closed out the season with a mark of 6-6.
While these two teams are in the same ballpark in terms of points per game, Wisconsin gets the nod on offense. That’s largely because of sophomore RB extraordinaire Jonathan Taylor, the nation’s leading rusher who posted a line of 280/1,989/15 on the year. Defense clearly goes to Miami, including a notable edge on the pressure front.
That said, Wisconsin does not exactly have a porous defense, and the unit could prove to be tough for a Hurricanes squad which isn’t known for playing lights-out offense. The turnover edge goes to Miami, while penalty yards per game are essentially a wash.
In short, these two clubs match up pretty well, and the close three-point spread supports that.
These two schools actually faced off in last year’s Orange Bowl. Wisconsin was a 6.5-point favorite for that tilt, and they walked off the field with a 34-24 victory. Miami has struggled in recent bowl games, going just 1-3 over the last four years. The Badgers have been excelling while going bowling over the same span, racking up a perfect 4-0 mark.
Underdogs are on a pretty good run in the Pinstripe Bowl. Over the last five years, dogs are 3-2 straight-up and 4-1 against the spread. In last year’s matchup, Iowa faced off with Boston College as a two-point favorite, and they got the job done to the tune of 27-20. Back in 2016, Pitt was a 3.5-point favorite over Northwestern, but they fell short by a final score of 31-24.
As the tight spread indicates, we should be in line for a close and hard fought affair. One thing to keep in mind as game time approaches is the weather forecast for the northeast. It’s going to be cold, and that equals a check mark in the positive column for Wisconsin.
However, that slight edge can easily be offset since the club will be down Hornibrook. Sophomore QB Jack Coan will be behind center. Coan has been serviceable in limited work this season, throwing four scores versus two picks, but looking for him to get the job done versus a tough Hurricanes defense is a really big ask.
In fact, that may be the difference maker in the game. While we’re still expecting a close one, the ferocious Miami defense should be able to force the inexperienced signal caller into a mistake or two. The Hurricanes still have Taylor to contend with, but his damage could be mitigated if they can hold the passing game in check.
We’ll take Miami minus the points.