Although Wisconsin’s quest for a berth in the College Football Playoff ended with a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, the Badgers were rewarded with a top-10 matchup in a New Year’s Six bowl.
A day after its 27-21 loss to the Buckeyes, UW (12-1) learned Sunday it will face Miami (10-2) in the Orange Bowl in Miami at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30. The game will be held at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami’s home field.
The Hurricanes were unbeaten until the last weekend of November, when they were upset at Pittsburgh, 24-14. They then were blown out by Clemson, 38-3, in the ACC title game Saturday night.
The Badgers dropped from No. 4 to No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings released Sunday. Miami dropped three spots to No. 10.
“This is a great matchup if I’m Wisconsin,” analyst Joey Galloway said Sunday on ESPN’s College Football Playoff selection show. “I want a piece of Miami. They haven’t looked great in their last two games and it’s a chance to make a statement.
“Wisconsin, without a key win on their résumé…you knock off Miami, change the narrative, not just for this season, but moving forward.”
Ohio State (11-2) was edged out for the final spot in the playoff top four by Alabama (11-1), leaving the Big Ten out of the national championship picture. The Crimson Tide joins No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia, all 12-1, in the playoffs.
In the national semifinals on New Year’s Day, Oklahoma and Georgia will play in the Rose Bowl at 4 p.m. and Clemson will play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl at 7:45 p.m.
The national title game is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 8 in Atlanta.
In both the coaches and media top-25 polls, the Badgers dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 Sunday. The Hurricanes dropped from No. 7 to No. 11 in both polls.
Although they fell one victory short of securing a playoff berth, the Badgers can become the first team in program history to win 13 games.
“I appreciate what this team has done to give us this opportunity,” UW coach Paul Chryst said Sunday during an Orange Bowl teleconference.
Miami is 7-0 at home this season but Chryst downplayed the idea of his team playing a road game.
“I think more important than where it is,” he said, “is the opportunity. It is the opportunity to play against a great Miami team.
“Our kids...they know it will be a challenge.”
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit views the matchup as one with both teams searching for a way to regroup.
“Can Miami turn their fortunes around?” he said Sunday on the selection show. “They looked so good, became a trendy team after (beating) Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.”
The Hurricanes handled Virginia Tech, 28-10, on Nov. 4 and the next week routed Notre Dame, 41-8.
“And it has gone south since,” Herbstreit said.
He wasn’t referring to South Beach.
After pulling away late for a 44-28 victory over Virginia, the Hurricanes were manhandled by Pittsburgh and Clemson.
“To basically get thoroughly whipped was a tough pill to swallow for everybody,” Miami coach Mark Richt said of the 38-3 loss to Clemson.
Chryst is 2-0 in bowl games as UW’s head coach. The Badgers defeated USC, 23-21, in the 2015 Holiday Bowl and Western Michigan, 24-16, in the 2017 Cotton Bowl.
Wisconsin and Miami have met one time in a bowl game. UW upset the Hurricanes, 20-14, in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.
That game was billed as a battle between Miami’s speed and UW’s brawn.
This matchup will feature a similar theme.
“If you’re Wisconsin, you’ve heard a lot about these other teams,” ESPN analyst Booger McFarland said on the selection show. “You looked overmatched against Ohio State from an athleticism standpoint.
“Well, guess what? Miami’s got some horses, too, especially on that front seven. So if you’re that coaching staff, how do you get this team prepared to go against a team that’s probably going to be better athletes than you are?
“Can’t wait to see how Wisconsin responds.”