What to watch from Miami football and Wisconsin in Pinstripe Bowl

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 30: Jonathan Taylor
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 30: Jonathan Taylor /

The meeting between the Miami football team and Wisconsin in the Pinstripe bowl will have a very different feeling than last year’s meeting between the Hurricanes and Badgers in the Orange Bowl.

The Miami football team and Wisconsin were potentially one step away from a bid to the College Football Playoff if they had won their respective conference title games in 2017. They settled for the Orange Bowl and played a very competitive game.

The Hurricanes and Badgers both had disappointing seasons in 2017. Miami and Wisconsin both finished 7-5 after beginning the season ranked nationally in the top ten. The Hurricanes began the season ranked eighth in both polls. Wisconsin started 2018 fourth in the in the AP Poll and seventh in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Winning the Pinstripe Bowl and finishing the season strong is important for both Miami and Wisconsin. The Hurricanes victory in the Camping World Bowl in 2016 over West Virginia was the Hurricanes fifth in a row to end the season and launched them into 2017 with a ten game winning streak to begin the season.

The Hurricanes enter the Pinstripe bowl with many questions. Will Mark Richt continue to utilize the spread offense that Miami was forced into without a tight end for the last game and a half? Can the offensive line improve and be able to play well against the Badgers physicality and size up front?

The biggest question is how will well will N’Kosi Perry play at quarterback? Wisconsin has the nation’s 38th ranked pass defense. The Badgers didn’t face many good passing offenses in 2018. BYU who defeated Wisconsin in Madison was the best at 31st in the country.

ESPN posed the question of “What you need to know about every bowl game” in an article posted on Monday night. The mothership’s biggest question for the Hurricanes in the Pinstripe Bowl is how will Perry play.

"“Key player: QB N’Kosi Perry is the future for Miami — at least it seems. The back-and-forth under center likely undermined the Canes’ entire season, but Mark Richt has tabbed Perry as his guy, and the bowl is the redshirt freshman’s chance to prove his coach right.Storyline to watch: A season that started with big expectations ended as mostly a waste for Miami, with a four-game losing streak midway through sinking things. But the Canes have a chance to end on a high note and start building for 2019 with the bowl.”"

Just like Miami’s bad losses during their four-game losing streak in the middle of the season, the Badgers also had some questionable losses in 2018. In addition to the loss to BYU at Camp Randall Stadium in September, the Badgers were blown out by Minnesota 37-14 at home for the Paul Bunyan Ax in the final regular season game.

The most important player for Wisconsin without question is running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor led the country in rushing this season by nearly 20 yards per game.

"“Key player: Wisconsin’s disappointing record overshadowed onetime Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor’s 166 rushing yards per game — the best average in the nation by a wide margin.Storyline to watch: The Badgers started the season with playoff hopes. After finishing it with a deflating loss to rival Minnesota, will they have any interest in bouncing back in a bowl game?”"

Taylor has to be Miami Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz’s focus. Forcing Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook to beat them is the key for the Hurricanes. He had a big game against Miami last season with four touchdowns passes, but the Badgers pass offense has been worse than Miami’s this season.

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Wisconsin finished the regular season 116th in the nation in passing yards per game. Miami was 109th with 177.3 yards per game. Wisconsin averaged 164.8.