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2008 Champs Sports Bowl Preview

Florida State (8-4, 5-3 ACC) vs. Wisconsin (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten)

December 27th, 2008 @ 4:30 PM (EST) – ESPN – Orlando, Florida

The Champs Sports Bowl features home state power Florida State taking on the invading Badgers from Wisconsin. Both teams have had up and down seasons (Wisconsin was once ranked in the top 10 before losing four consecutive games in the middle of the season, Florida State was also highly ranked) and enter the game outside of the top 25.

Florida State began the season 6-1 before sputtering down the stretch. The Seminoles have had a solid season on offense thanks to breakout star quarterback Christian Ponder. However, Ponder is still young and is prone to mistakes (shown by his 13 interceptions against only 12 touchdowns). Florida State also has the country’s youngest offensive line but a year of experience has allowed the group to show a lot of improvement. On defense, Florida State has a lot of talent and has been very good at times (12 points allowed to Wake Forest, 3 allowed to Maryland) and not so good at others (31 points allowed to Georgia Tech, 39 to Miami). Florida State allowed an average of 210 rush yards per game in their four losses this year, which doesn’t bode well going against a very solid rushing attack like Wisconsin.

The Badgers suffered through their first season of adversity under Brett Bielema in his third year in charge. Going into this year, they were 21-5 in his first two seasons, yet they now sit at 7-5. Wisconsin endured a four game losing streak at midseason that began with an unbelievable loss to Michigan where the Badgers led 19-0 at half. However, Wisconsin rebounded to win four of their last five games, thanks in large part to a change at the quarterback position, where junior Dustin Scherer took over. However, the Badgers lean on an excellent rushing attack which averaged over 200 yards per game this year. If freshman John Clay has a big day against FSU, the Badgers could boast two 1,000 yard rushers (junior PJ Hill has over 1,000 already). Wisconsin’s defense has been susceptible this season but like Florida State they have the potential to be a solid unit.

This game comes down to one major matchup: Florida State’s rush defense against Wisconsin’s rushing attack. If the Seminoles can’t slow down Wisconsin’s two headed monster at tailback, then the Badgers will be able to control the clock and the game will play right into their hands. In what is likely to be a pro-Seminole crowd, the Badgers’ strong running attack should be the key to their success. Meanwhile, Florida State has to take care of the football if they hope to defeat the Badgers. My expectation for this game is to see Wisconsin’s strong ground game exploit a susceptible Florida State run defense and play right into Bielema’s hands by shortening the game. Furthermore, I expect Wisconsin’s defensive line to be able to win the battle up front enough to prevent Florida State from consistently moving the ball. This should play out like an old school football game, featuring a lot of hitting and running the football, Wisconsin’s bread and butter. Expect the Badgers to win a very physical and close football game.

Champs Sports Bowl Pick: Wisconsin 27 - Florida State 23


by Matt Baxendell Staff Writer

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