Wisconsin survived a thrilling Orange Bowl with a 34-24 win over Miami. Here are five things that matter.
2017 Orange Bowl: Wisconsin 34, Miami 24
5. The Big Ten
And now, with Michigan still to play South Carolina in the Outback, the Big Ten remains perfect this bowl season.
The results of these things do matter, because they go to the heart of the College Football Playoff committee’s eye test.
Now, among others, the Big Ten has a win when it’s conference champ vs. conference champ (Ohio State over USC), it has a nice upset (Purdue over Arizona), it has a tough gut-check performance (Northwestern over Kentucky), and it has a road win, with Wisconsin taking down Miami in a Hurricane home game.
And a double-digit road win for the Badgers, too.
4. Jonathan Taylor
He had an early fumble that wasn’t really a fumble, and he has a record that’s not really a record – Ron Dayne is the all-time leading freshman runner, but his bowl stats inexplicably aren’t added to his total – but whatever.
Taylor ran 26 times for 130 yards, came up with a nice 13-yard catch late, and helped the whole Badger machine to work.
Wisconsin had the ball for almost 40 minutes, had a slew of makable third down conversion attempts, and made Miami have to focus on No. 23. This was the game Taylor was hoping to have against Ohio State, but it’ll have to do now.
3. Turnover chain
That didn’t work.
Miami’s offense was dangerous down the field, and the ground game actually outgained Wisconsin’s, but Miami feeds off the takeaways.
It only got one, and that wasn’t really a fumble by Taylor early on.
It had several opportunities, but it couldn’t seem to get that one big takeaway to get everything going.
Instead, Wisconsin had three takeaways, Miami just one. The Canes couldn’t get the job done without the Chain.
2. Yeah, Miami isn’t quite there yet, but …
Look … out.
The machine is still building up, and there’s no reason to think that the Canes will take any sort of a step back. Next year, they have to figure out the quarterback situation, and a few parts are gone off the lines, but the linebacking corps might be the best in college football, the secondary is loaded, and there’s speed, speed and more speed.
The offense has to be more consistent, the offensive line has to be able to take over games, and head coach Mark Richt can’t have the meltdown like he had late in the first half – but there’s a whole lot to like.
This is just a step in the process. If anything, losing this might be just the inspiration the Miami needs this offseason to be that much better.
1. Alex Hornibrook
Really? The guy who has been so dangerous when it comes to throwing picks, not moving the passing game, and with so much inconsistency turns in that performance against that defense?
It helped that the wide receivers stepped up big – with Danny Davis catching three touchdown passes and A.J. Taylor making eight grabs for 105 yards and a score – but Hornibrook was brilliant.
He managed to avoid the Cane pass rush – the O line did its job, too – to complete 23-of-34 passes for 258 yards and four scores.
And no interceptions. And one Orange Bowl MVP. And a 13th win this season as the Wisconsin starting quarterback.