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No. 6 Wisconsin holds off No. 10 Miami in Orange Bowl; Big Ten goes 7-0 in bowls

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The Big Ten may not have landed a team in the College Football Playoff, but the conference continues to rack up the wins in the bowl season. No. 6 Wisconsin (13-1) improved their bowl game winning streak to four consecutive bowl wins with a 34-24 victory over No. 10 Miami in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami. The bowl win for the Badgers improved the Big Ten to a record of 7-0 this bowl season.

Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor capped his record-setting freshman season with 130 rushing yards on 26 carries. Along the way, Taylor broke Adrian Petersen‘s all-time freshman rushing record. Though Taylor was kept out of the endzone, his ability to grind out yardage helped Wisconsin tire out the Miami defense and allowed the Badgers to get something going through the air. Alex Hornibrook passed for 258 yards and four touchdowns, with Danny Davis III catching three of those scores. The Badgers were lifted by a 21-point second quarter and were able to counter Miami in the second half to keep the ACC runners-up at arm’s length.

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst improved to 4-1 in bowl games, including a 3-0 mark since his arrival in Madison. The Badgers have also improved their win total each of the past three seasons under Chryst’s watch. This win was much like any Wisconsin had this season, with total dominance in time of possession. Wisconsin held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game with 24 first downs. Miami struggled to stay on the field, with just two third down conversions out of 10.

The season ends on a three-game losing streak for Miami, but this season proved Mark Richt has been able to turn a corner with the program. Playing in the ACC Championship Game for the first time since joining the ACC was a hurdle that had long been one that could not be cleared. Malik Rosier (who was picked off three times) returning for a senior season should allow Miami to keep the offense improving, and the continued recruiting efforts of Miami and player development under Richt should allow Miami to continue to be a team to watch in the ACC picture. Freshman running back DeeJay Dallas had a 39-yard touchdown run, showing some of the flashes he can offer as well.

Miami will head to Arlington, Texas for a season-opener clash with LSU in AT&T Stadium on Sunday, September 2, 2018. The Hurricanes will also host Florida State in cross-division play, as well as the only team to hand them a loss in the regular season, Pittsburgh.

Wisconsin begins the 2018 season at home on Friday, August 31, 2018 with a game against Western Kentucky. The Badgers also host BYU in non-conference play and open Big Ten play on the road against Iowa. The Badgers also draw a tough cross-division rotation on the road with games against Michigan in Ann Arbor and Penn State in State College.

Mark Richt grabs official and Wisconsin is up 24-14 on Miami in Orange Bowl

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Things started off well for the hometown Miami Hurricanes, but the first half of the Capital One Orange Bowl reached halftime with the Wisconsin Badgers establishing control of the game. The Badgers lead the Hurricanes after one half of play in Miami, 24-14.

It took just four plays for Miami’s trademark turnover chain to make an appearance when a  questionable instant replay ruled Wisconsin’s freshman running back Jonathan Taylor had fumbled. Replays showed his knee may have down, but officials felt the ball was coming out as Taylor went to the ground. Wisconsin survived the early Miami offensive opportunity when a Miami field goal sailed wide right. The Badgers responded with a field goal on the next possession, but Miami roared back with a touchdown when Travis Homer finished off a drive with a five-yard run for a score.

Afer a three-and-out by the Badgers defense, Miami kept the momentum going with DeeJay Dallas ripping off a 39-yard touchdown run to put the Hurricanes up 14-3. From there, it has been all Wisconsin. Alex Hornibrook completed a pass to Danny Davis III from 20 yards out shortly after the Badgers defense forced a turnover with an interception of Malik Rosier. Wisconsin’s defense continued to get off the field quickly with back-to-back three-and-outs, and Wisconsin took the lead on a Hornibrook pass to A.J. Taylor.

Wisconsin added another touchdown pass form Hornibrook to Davis III late in the half to create a 24-14 lead. That happened shortly after Miami head coach Mark Richt was flagged for contacting an official by the arm during a timeout. What sparked the rage is not quite clear, as Richt only said “If you watch the tape, you’ll see” when asked about the incident by ESPN sideline reporter Molly McGrath.

During the first half, Wisconsin’s Taylor set a new freshman rushing record for the most rushing yards in a season by a freshman, passing Adrian Peterson‘s record from 2004. None other than Wisconsin legend Ron Dayne offered his congratulations on Twitter.

No. 5 Wisconsin blanks Minnesota, 31-0, to complete 12-0 regular season

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No. 5 Wisconsin (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season in blowout fashion, defeating Minnesota (5-7, 2-7 Big Ten) on the road by a score of 31-0. Say what you might about the level of competition Minnesota has faced this season, but the Badgers have done everything asked of them to be in the College Football Playoff discussion, and they may be one win shy of reaching the playoff for the first time in school history.

Wisconsin had a straightforward approach to beating Minnesota fueled by steady defense and a good running game. Jonathan Taylor rushed 20 times for 149 yards and a score in the big win to continue a dominant freshman season. Alex Hornibrook passed for 151 yards and three touchdowns for an efficient afternoon when needed.

All that stands in the way for the Badgers now is Ohio State and the selection committee. A win against the Buckeyes to string together a 13-0 record with a Big Ten championship capped by a win against a top 10 team feels like it should be enough on its own to be rewarded with inclusion in the College Football Playoff. And with the top two teams in the nation losing this weekend, it still remains a guessing game how the selection committee will evaluate the situation. Nothing should be considered a given, but if Wisconsin is the last undefeated power conference team standing at the end of the season, then that should be enough if the Badgers can pull it off.

Wisconsin will play Ohio State next week in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Minnesota’s season is now done with a 5-7 record, bringing the first season under P.J. Fleck to a close. There were some positives at times, but the Gophers have plenty of rowing to do to take steps forward in the Big Ten West pecking order and to give Wisconsin a decent run.

Wisconsin defense setting tone against Minnesota

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Wisconsin has not lost to Minnesota since 2003, and after one half of play, it appears that streak will continue. Wisconsin’s defense has shut the door on the Gophers after one half of play, while the Badgers have put together a 17-0 lead in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. The Badgers had more points than Minnesota had offensive yards at halftime after going up 17-0, but the Gophers picked up some yards before the end of the half.

Wisconsin opened the scoring in the first quarter when Alex Hornibrook completed a short touchdown pass to tight end Troy Fumagalli to cap a 12-play drive. After the defense pitched a three-and-out to force a punt, Wisconsin tacked on three more with a 32-yard field goal off the leg of Rafael Gaglianone.

Wisconsin pushed the lead to 17-0 in the final minute of the half when Hornibrook completed a pass to Kyle Penniston from five yards out following a 27-yard run by Garrett Groshek.

No. 5 Wisconsin muscles their way to 11-0 against No. 24 Michigan

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No. 5 Wisconsin (11-0, 8-0) moved one step closer to an undefeated regular season thanks to a strong second-half showing against No. 24 Michigan (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten). The Badgers struggled to get much of anything going on offense in the first half, but the plays seemed to come together in the second half en route to a 24-10 victory in Madison on Saturday afternoon. The Badgers scored 21-unanswered points to overcome a 10-7 deficit in the third quarter.

Michigan was on the wrong end of a controversial instant replay in the first half, but even if the correct call had been made in the review it would not have been enough to score the upset. The Badgers wore down Michigan in the second half and found some passing plays to use to their advantage off the arm of Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook completed just nine passes out of 19 attempts with one going for a touchdown and another deep ball providing a spark along the way. The recipe for a win, of course, remained running the ball. Freshman sensation Jonathan Taylor ripped off 132 yards on 19 carries to power Wisconsin’s offense.

Michigan starting quarterback Brandon Peters was carted off in the third quarter with an apparent head injury. He did not return, and John O’Korn was tasked with taking over the offense for the remainder of the game. Had Peters not been injured, it may not have mattered. Wisconsin’s defense was still making plays when they needed and not allowing Michigan to seize control for extended periods of time.

The win keeps Wisconsin knocking on the door to the College Football Playoff. If the Badgers win their next two games, they will stand an excellent chance of getting to the playoff for the first time in school history. Wisconsin will wrap up the regular season on the road next week with the annual rivalry game with Minnesota. The Gophers were getting thumped by Northwestern and will need a long-overdue win against Wisconsin in order to become bowl-eligible. Wisconsin has not lost to Minnesota since 2003. After that, it will be a date in the Big Ten Championship Game against the champion of the East Division, which will more than likely be the team Michigan plays next week.

Michigan will be home in Ann Arbor for their rivalry game against Ohio State. The Buckeyes will need the win in order to remain on the playoff radar heading into the Big Ten championship game. Jim Harbaugh has not beaten Urban Meyer yet.