Undefeated Western Michigan rowed its way into the Cotton Bowl, but that boat is in danger of sinking for the first time this season. Wisconsin’s power running game is set the tone early but the Big Ten runners-up own a 17-7 lead on the MAC champion in the Cotton Bowl at halftime after Western Michigan finally gained some confidence on offense.
Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell rolled out on a brilliantly called play and dodged one defender to score a touchdown.
The Badgers did respond to the first score of the day from Western Michigan by tacking on a late field goal to extend the lead to 10 points juts before halftime.
Corey Clement got right to work on the first drive of the game for Wisconsin by rushing for over 40 yards and easing his way through a tunnel in front of him to open the scoring with a touchdown. Terrell completed a 22-yard pass to Corey Davis on the first offensive snap from the Broncos, but Western Michigan was forced to punt three plays later, which led to a second Wisconsin touchdown run. This time it was Dare Ogunbowale scoring from one yard out to complete an 88-yard touchdown drive.
Wisconsin owned an advantage in offensive yards after one quarter, 166-46, including 104 rushing yards to Western Michigan’s four. Bart Houston has also been the quarterback for the Badgers, with Alex Hornibrook also getting on the field.
WHO: No. 25 USC (8-5) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
WHAT: The 38th Holiday Bowl
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
WHEN: 10:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 30 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: At one point this season it looked as though USC could have imploded. The firing of Steve Sarkisian five weeks into the season could have made for a messy season, but Clay Helton has managed to keep the Trojans going and made sure they played for the Pac-12 championship they were chosen to win back during media days. It was quite a roller coaster to get there that saw back-to-back losses in a coaching transition, a blowout win of Utah, a blowout loss at Oregon and a dominating victory against UCLA to clinch the Pac-12 South. Although USC went 0-2 against Stanford this year, the Trojans proved to be a dangerous team with Cody Kessler throwing 28 touchdowns with just six interceptions thrown and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster racking up 1,389 yards and 10 touchdowns. Junior linebacker Su’a Cravens and freshman linebacker Cameron Smith showed the legacy at the position should continue to thrive after the two led the team in tackles this fall.
USC will look for its third straight bowl victory, and second under Helton. To do that the Trojans must take out Wisconsin from the Big Ten. The Badgers have had a rough time in bowl games played in California since the turn of the century. Wisconsin lost three straight Rose Bowls from 2010 through 2013. Now they move to San Diego this postseason looking to buck that trend. In year one under Paul Chryst, the Badgers turned in a sneaky decent season with a 9-3 record on the strength of one of the top defensive showings this season. Wisconsin allowed just 97.9 yards per game on the ground and 169.2 passing yards per game. That helped fuel Wisconsin’s defense, anchored by senior linebacker Joe Schobert, allowing just 13.1 points per game to lead the nation.
Running the football tends to be the recipe for success in Madison, but the status of top running back Corey Clement is a concern. Clement is working through a sports hernia injury and hopes to play a key role in Wisconsin’s game plan against the Trojans. If Clement is not able to carry the football much, the Badgers still have Dare Ogunbowale to help out after rushing for 769 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Wisconsin may have won nine games, with close losses to Iowa and Northwestern, but what happens against one fo the most athletic teams they have faced this season? Alabama steamrolled Wisconsin in Week 1. USC won’t do that, but the Trojans may have a chance to make some plays even against this solid Wisconsin defense.
THE PREDICTION: USC 26, Wisconsin 23
Wisconsin running back Corey Clement didn’t have to wait until he woke up to determine if he would be able to play today against Illinois or not. Wisconsin says the running back didn’t even make the trip to Champaign this week. Neither did Taiwan Deal.
Clement was cleared to return for Wisconsin last week but did not play against Purdue. Wisconsin’s top running back underwent surgery for a sports hernia early in the season after playing just one game against Alabama in the season opener. His absence has allowed for freshman Deal to get more involved with the offense, but an ankle injury has him slowed down as well. Deal is Wisconsin’s second-leading rusher with 357 yards and four touchdowns.
With Clement and dEal both not available, Wisconsin will continue using Dare Ogunbowale as the primary running back. He leads the Badgers with 482 rushing yards and four touchdowns this season.
Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave was picked off by Iowa’s Desmond King in the second quarter, and the Hawkeyes cashed in. C.J. Beathard‘s short touchdown pass to George Kittle gave undefeated Iowa a 10-3 halftime lead on the No. 19 Badgers in Madison.
Wisconsin’s running game is moving forward without Corey Clement, and the struggles on the ground have been evident. Wisconsin has just 14 rushing yards on Iowa’s defense, with Dare Ogunbowale leading the way with 10 yards so far. Iowa has been much more effective on the ground with Jordan Canzeri on his way to a 100-yard afternoon.
Marshall Koehn added a field goal in the final minute of the half to extend Iowa’s lead to seven.
This is the Big Ten opener for both schools, so an early first place standing in the seemingly up-for-grabs Big ten West is on the line on this first Saturday of October.