Friday, December 26

Champs Sports Bowl: Because Beating Two 1-AA Teams Makes You a Winner!

The Champs Sports Bowl has a long and distinguished history, starting in 2001 and continuing up until, um, now. Oh boy. The ACC has made this bowl their stomping grounds, going 5-2 while the other team couldn't figure out what they wanted to do - first it was Big East, then it was Big 12, then the Big East again, and now we're to the Big 10. At least they're all Big. This time, Wisconsin steps in, hoping to turn the Big 10's 0-2 frown upside down. They'll face a Florida State team that we've been disparaging in these hallowed walls for months now. If you think we're stopping just because they made a bowl, we have a bridge to sell you.

Florida State

This little turdbomb of a team managed to slide into 8-4 by virtue of - yes - two wins over 1-AA competition. Really, we don't have too much of a problem with it if it wasn't for two things: 1) they scheduled both teams as the first two games of the season, which led to 2) people thinking they were a good team because they were 2-0 - then later 2-1, then later 6-1 before finishing the season on a 2-3 skid. It all stems back to those first two games, which: shame on them.

The funny thing is that for all the shit we give the 'Noles, they can at least score. They lead the ACC in points per game - and not in the shitty ACC way; they're actually 27th in the country. (By comparison, the 2nd-best scoring offense in the ACC is 46th in the country.) That's fueled by a 180-yards-a-game rushing attack led by RB Antoine Smith. However, backup RB Jermaine Thomas contributes, and FSU is lucky enough to have two semi-legit rushing QB threats in Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson. The passing game isn't much to phone home about; you don't tell your friends you're sporting a 12/13 TD/INT ratio (Ponder) or can't even complete 53% of your passes (Richardson and - yes - Drew Weatherford).

On defense, they're mired in the average ACC morass that is the 18-22 point range of points allowed, but the composites are decent; they're 5th in the ACC in yardage against but 1st in passing yardage against. The oddity of that passing number is they still allowed a 14/9 ratio, which would indicate that they weren't playing the ball enough (or they were facing some wildly inaccurate QBs; that's likely as well).

Predictably, FSU checked in at a -3 in turnover margin for the year, which doesn't mean a whole lot. What does mean something is they're +18% in third down conversions - 44% to their opponents' 26%. That opponents' conversion percentage is good for the best in the nation.

That's a good sign against a team like Wisconsin who can't do shit passing the ball. The key for F$U is going to be holding the Badgers to limited yardage on 1st and 2nd down, which would force them into obvious passing downs; anything 3rd and 4+ is a likely win for the 'Noles. On offense, Wisconsin has a difficult but manageable defense against both fronts, so the key here is going to be limiting possible mistakes and turnovers while keeping the chains moving. That's something Free Shoes U can do.


The Wisconsin Badgers started the 2008 season with three opening wins, including what looked at the time to be a big road victory over Fresno State. After dominating the first half of their fourth game against Michigan, the Badgers held just a three-score lead. Squandering the opportunity to have already put the game away, they allowed a Michigan comeback which started a 1-5 tumble into the depths of conference mediocrity. Though Wisconsin rebounded to win three straight – including an uncomfortably close 36-35 triumph over Cal-Poly – this is a team who has the feeling of backing into bowl season. Perhaps one reason for this feeling is the losses to Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan State – every quality team the Badgers have faced. This is not a team who is going to put fear, or even much concern, into a bowl opponent – even one of ACC quality.

Offensively, there's not much to Wisconsin. PJ Hill is the workhorse, pounding out 85.1 ypg and 13 rushing TDs on the season. John Clay has moved into a strong supporting role, contributing 70.4 ypg on the ground of his own (9 TDs). Both QBs have almost identical stats - Dustin Sherer (118.3 rating, 54.3%, 7.2 ypa, 5 TD, 5 INT) and Allan Evridge (119.1, 53.8, 7.2, 5, 5) are little more than occasional distraction from the steady stream of handoffs to Wisconsin's two featured runningbacks. No receiver averages even 50 ypg in receptions, and star tight end Travis "Catch it Like" Beckum has only played in six games.

Looking at the composites, Wisconsin throws the ball for 192.8 ypg while giving up 189.1 ypg through the air. They typically dominate the ground – 212.0 ypg for to 133.3 ypg allowed – but of course when opposing defenses have stopped this (Ohio State, Penn State) or opposing offenses have continued to pound away regardless (Michigan State's Javon Ringer) the Badgers have unraveled.

Against Florida State, Wisconsin faces a team with a reasonably strong running back – Antoine Smith. Under most circumstances I'd be worried about UW's secondary not being adequately tested by Big Ten offenses, except that their opponent's best QB may actually be Drew Weatherford, so this isn't likely to be an issue.

Look for the Champs Sports Bowl to come down to two teams stubbornly pounding away at each others' defenses, unable to accomplish much. Three HB iso's and out, followed by a toss sweep, QB draw, jump ball, and out. Ad nauseam. You've probably done something in a previous life to deserve this; shame on you.