The Champs Sports Bowl Preview: Wisconsin Badgers at your Florida State Seminoles

The football coverage has been sparse around these parts lately.  I hope this preview will more than make up for the lack of substantive football coverage.  Even though I think there are far more important things going on with this team than the game, I haven't forgotten about the actual game being played this Saturday. 


TV: 4:30 PM ESPN-- Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Bob Griese (Analyst), Paul Maguire (Analyst), Holly Rowe (Sideline).
Sun Sports Replay at 7:00 PM on Sunday and Monday at 12:00 PM

Radio: ISP Sports Network - Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play) and William Floyd (color)

FSU has never played Wisconsin.

Game Day Forecast

Partly Cloudy


81° F 62° F

Precip: 10%

I'll take weather like that.


  • The Conversation, with Tommy of
  • I breakdown our defense against the Badger Offense and dispel a myth the lazy media has been promoting.
  • Go inside Wisconsin's defensive scheme to figure out how we will put points on the  badgers
  • In Extra Points, I go through all the leftovers and predict a winner.

Other Media

The Big10 blog thinks we could give Wisconsin some trouble.  Chantrant has covered this game for weeks, so scroll through.  All of the ESPN folks think FSU will win (Except Kirk Herbstreit).

The Conversation

My questions appear in bold.

How do Wisconsin fans feel about their showdown with Florida State?  On the one hand, they had high expectations for this season and are now playing in Florida, before new years day, for a fourth? year in a row. On the other hand, they do get the chance to give some credence to the big 10.

Well, two years ago the Badgers went 12-1, including a Jan. 1 victory over Auburn in the Capital One Bowl, so it hasn't been all December bowls, but it has been a lot of Florida bowls. Wisconsin would like to play in Pasadena every year, but if that doesn't happen, the fans just want the best bowl against the best team.

In this regard, a game against FSU is a nice consolation prize to a disappointing season for the Badgers. FSU, although not as powerful as it was in the 90s, still presents a marquee matchup for many fans, including myself. After seeing College Gameday broadcasted from Tallahassee so many times, and after all the great players that have come from that program, it will be a lot of fun to see our Red&White uni's taking the field against the Seminoles. Another factor for the knowledgeable fans is that Wisconsin has started recruiting the southwestern part of Florida heavily in recent years, so a win against FSU in Florida, would be a big boost to our recruiting efforts.

On the flip side, Badger fan confidence is at one of the lowest points in memory since we were wining 3 Rose Bowls in the 90s. The Badgers suffered some bad losses this year, most notably to a terrible Michigan team, and with a winning season on the line in the final game, got outplayed by Cal-Poly and were lucky to get a win. Previous Badger teams were well-prepared and played sound fundamental ball for four quarters. This Badgers team has had lapses all over the field, and has driven fans nuts. So I think fans are excited about the game, but wary of our prospects.

What has Wisconsin done well this year?

Boy, it's not a good sign when you have to think long and hard about how to answer this. Unlike years past, you cannot easily point to one aspect of the game that the Badgers have excelled at. Looking back, I think the best thing the team did was coalesce around a QB change in the middle of the year and fight back to end the regular season at 7-5. Lesser teams may have folded the tent and embarrassed themselves, but despite the many struggles, the team never turned on each other and was able to right the ship. Another bright spot has been the play of #32, John Clay. One of the most highly touted prep skill position players to come out of Wisconsin in years, Clay is a redshirt freshman and he runs like an angry wild animal. Secondary defenders are not excited to tackle him. Ohio State had no answer for him, and most Badgers fans are convinced that UW would have won a close games against OSU and MSU if we had given this kid the rock more often.

What aspects of this team never developed?

The passing game to our TEs, a major strength in previous seasons, was hindered by injuries at the position, including the injury to pre-season All-American Travis Beckhum. This forced the QBs to find WRs, and the Badgers are weak at that position. The passing game floundered and the starting QB gave way to the backup. Another problem for the Badgers this year has been game management by the coaching staff. The Badgers have been a bad second half team on defense, and in our close games, bad at clock and time-out management. This has probably been the most frustrating thing for Badger fans to watch.

I pointed out that Wisconsin will be the lightest front 7 FSU faces this year in this piece:

The WI defense has stayed in base 4-3 almost all year. Unless you spread us out, we are very happy to play in the base 4-3. In fact, our defense has played pretty well against teams who think they can run against our base defense. Mobile quarterbacks are what gives us problems. (BTW, what was going on in the Miami game? 144 yards for Ponder?) The Badgers do not blitz very well, and have had trouble tackling in the secondary. (There are lots of reasons we are 7-5!) So I expect that we will try to keep the game-plan simple and try to keep our guys playing fast and aggressive. I think the defense will try to limit big plays, and keep the game close, unless the coaches have noticed something about FSU on tape, which is doubtful.

On a side note, watch out for Mr. Jay Valai coming in for the kill shots, he has been blasting people since he was inserted into the lineup, and he is hometown boys with your starting QB, so he is definitely amped up about the game.

(This link shows one of his 7 or so serious hits he has delivered. Feel free to add hyperlink under kill shots:

Jay Valai destroys Gopher RB (via packman2436)

I asked them some fun questions...

I would say our favorite type of cheese is beer.

I would also say that our favorite type of sunscreen in sunburn.

Lastly, you mentioned Peter Warrick in regards to the Heisman trophy in 2000. First, I'd like to mention that I loved watching Peter Warrick play, and have no grudge against him. Second, I think its pretty clear that Ron Dayne got the career achievement Heisman as opposed to the single season Heisman. However, I want your readers to know that the NCAA does not give Dayne the proper credit he deserves. They quote his record setting career rushing total as 6,397, but that's because they don't include his bowl stats, even though they do include it for modern players. Dayne actually rushed for 7,125 total. He's one of 5 players to rush for 1,000 yards in all four years, and he is tied with Ricky WIlliams and Marcus Allen for most 200-yard rushing games. Lastly, he holds the all-time record for rushing TDs in BigTen conference, a conference that is really really old and has been focused on running the ball and stopping the run for almost its entire history.

A big thanks to CampLambeau for working with us on short notice. 

What did he ask me?

 B. Bowden was quoted in our newspapers saying that there is the National Championship game and if you're not in that, then all of the other bowls are all about the same. Do FSU fans feel the same way?

Is Wisconsin on your radar as a legit football program? Does the school have any name recognition among FSU fans?

Wisconsin runs a pro-style offense and often uses 2 TEs and a fullback. Have you encountered these power formations this year? How have you fared? Is your defense better suited to defending big pro-sets, or the spread option type offenses?

Fun Questions:

Wisconsin has been recruiting Florida actively in recent years, has FSU ever recruited a Wisconsin player? If not, why not? Too much academic eligibility from our high school students?

How many "head-coach in waiting" candidates to replace Bowden have their been? Are there any former potential Bowden replacements who are already retired?

Our head coach has an Iowa Hawkeye tattoo on his calf from his playing days. Bobby Bowden played at Alabama. Does he have an elephant tattoo anywhere? If not, you're ahead of us there....

My answers... at CampLambeau


Florida State struggles against huge offensive lines singleback shotgun based offenses with option elements. 

This has annoyed me for at least the last two weeks.  I really enjoy Andrew Carter and Steve Ellis, but some of the other Nole sites have spouted that FSU struggles against huge offensive lines.  It would be nice if they did a bit of research on this subject.  Lucky for TomahawkNation readers, I did do the research.  I believed that FSU struggled against not huge offensive lines, but rather teams with gun-based offenses who run singeback as their primary alignment, and teams that run a lot of option.  Why would I think this?  Mostly because I've seen teams adapt their offense to counteract the schemes of Mickey Andrews and other legendary defensive coordinators of the 90's. 

So, what teams run these offenses?  NC State (with Russell Wilson and the zone read), Boston College (who ran that zone-read give out of the gun 20+ times), and UF.  Georgia Tech Runs majority option, so I Included them as well.  The results? 

Against majority Pro-Style Offenses:

Points Total Off.



Plays Yds Per Play No Net YPC TFL's Att Comp Yds TD Int Sacks Dropbacks/ Sacks QB Rating
Wake Forest(3-12) 12 68 276 4.1 38 59 1.6 9 30 17 217 0 0 2 16.0 117
Colorado(39-21) 21 73 278 3.8 37 124 3.4 10 36 17 154 3 1 4 10.0 105
Miami (Fla.)(41-39) 30 63 256 4.1 14 51 3.6 6 49 21 205 1 3 2 25.5 72
Virginia Tech(30-20) 20 56 243 4.3 34 82 2.4 10 22 12 161 1 0 6 4.7 137
Clemson(41-27) 27 71 316 4.5 36 79 2.2 14 35 20 237 2 1 6 6.8 127.17
Maryland(37-3) 3 60 252 4.2 29 103 3.6 10 31 16 149 0 2 6 6.2 79
Per Game 19 65 270 4.1 31 83 2.6 10 34 17 187 1.2 1.2 4.3 8.8 100

These numbers are excellent.  4.1 yards allowed per play is very good considering that these 6 games came against BCS competition, as I removed the two games against 1-AA competition.  Note that we allowed only 2.6 yards per rush.  If you don't think these numbers are impressive, just wait till you see the difference between our defense against a pro-style attack (like Wisconsin) and the Gun attack with a single back and a mobile QB, complete with option elements....  Wait Over

Singleback, Option based schemes: 

Total Off.



Plays Yds Per Play No Net YPC TFL's Att Comp Yds TD Int Sacks Dropbacks/ Sacks QB Rating
North Carolina St.(26-17) 17 47 338 7.2 21 157 7.5 4 25 13 181 2 0 1 26 139.22
Georgia Tech(28-31) 31 51 343 6.7 44 288 6.5 2 6 4 55 0 1 0 NONE 110.33
Boston College(17-27) 20 74 357 4.8 46 176 3.8 13 27 14 181 1 1 1 28 113
Florida(15-45) 45 68 502 7.4 46 317 6.9 8 22 12 185 3 0 1 23 170
Per Game: 28 60 385 6.4 39 235 6.0 6.8 20 11 151 1.5 0.5 0.8 28 138

That's quite the difference.  Every single category got significantly worse.  Also note that removing UF's numbers don't significantly reduce the categories.  I was shocked at just how well NC State's offense played.  Clearly, our Offense won that game by holding the ball for a long time. 

For those who want the clear comparison in table form, you are in luck...


Total Off. Rushing Passing
Opponent Plays Yds Per Play No Net YPC TFL's Att Comp Yds TD Int Sacks Dropbacks/ Sacks QB Rating
Against Pro-Style 19 65 270 4.1 31 83 2.6 10 34 17 187 1.2 1.2 4.3 8.8 100
Against SBGUNOPTION 28 60 385 6.4 39 235 6.0 7 20 11 151 1.5 0.5 0.8 28 138

Yeah... we get destroyed by anyone with an ounce of talent the the motivation to run this sort of scheme.  The Noles own pro-style attacks.  Oh, and one more thing:  The biggest offensive lines we've faced?  Miami and VTech.  

So, why do we struggle against this?  Basically, we run a very aggressive one-gap man scheme.  This offense makes our defense hesitate just enough to get blocked, and because of the single gap responsibility, once one gap is blown... the whole scheme can be blown.

As for Wisconsin's scheme, they run a very simple pro-style offense.  They often use two TE's.  A huge percentage of their offense is run from the I-Formation.  If I were them, I would try to substitute another offensive tackle.  They have two very big backs.  PJ Hill is 235lbs and better known, but Jon Clay is a much more talented player.  Their receivers are nothing special.  None would make FSU's roster, will be drafted, or are serious Arena League prospects.  They had a stud tight end, but he broke his leg and won't be playing.  Their number two tight end is pretty good, but is also coming off an injury and should be rusty.  Their quarterback is not especially mobile, but he's not terrible.  Their offensive line lacks that elite NFL talent they've had in years past.  Personnel wise, their offense reminds me a lot of Boston College, with a worse quarterback and better running backs.  They are vastly different than BC in scheme, however, and that's why the Noles will shut them down.

The Relevant rankings? 

  • UW 58th in Offensive Efficiency (Nationally, opponent adjusted)
  • FSU: 18th in Defensive Efficiency
  • UW: 3rd most efficient rushing offense in the Big 10 (Big 10 games only)
  • FSU: 8th in rushing defense efficiency in the ACC (ACC games only-- though slightly skewed by 3 teams not playing GTech)
  • UW: 7th most efficient passing offense in Big10 (B10 games only)
  • FSU: 2nd best passing defense efficiency in the ACC (ACC games only)

FSU knows how to stop an I-Formation rushing attack.  They match up very well with Wisconsin.  Don't automatically accept what some of these media members tell you.  This "speed against size" matchup is a convenient storyline, but it is incorrect. 

Wisconsin will have 34 rushes for 135 yards (including sacks) and 31 throws for 170 yards.  FSU will throw 8 or 9 in the box and Wisconsin won't be able to force them out of it.  FSU destroys this type of offense and I've seen nothing from the Badgers to make me think the Noles will have to hesitate in the slightest.  I expect them to throw 17 offensive points on the board. 

Florida State will run on Wisconsin.

Last week I took a look at the size of the defensive front 7's the Noles have faced this year.

Boston College 1918lbs, 23 rushes, 82 yards.
Wake 1838lbs, 27 rushes for 103 yards.
Florida 1835lbs, 29 rushes for 137
Miami 1785lbs, 54 rushes, 281 yards.
Georgia Tech 1772lbs (I think they were lighter because of major injuries, correct?). 31 rushes, 228 yards.
Virginia Tech 1766lbs, 34 rushes, 123 yards.
Clemson 1760lbs, 34 rushes, 281 yards
NC State 1757lbs, 42 rushes, 162 yards
Maryland 1755lbs, 41 rushes, 172 yards
Colorado 1755lbs, 45 rushes, 259 yards

You should really read that piece to get the full effect.

Wisconsin's front 7 weighs 1710lbs, by far the smallest we have faced this season.  This bodes very well for the Seminoles.  Wait, didn't the media constantly say that Wisconsin was huge??  Why didn't they actually take five seconds to look?  Nice journalism, guys.

So, which option will Wisky choose?:

If Wisconsin plays 8 in the box and doesn't account for Reed: Bubble (Like Miami, NC State for a bit, and MD did some)

If Wisconsin plays 8 in the box and does account for reed: Deep Jumb balls (like Va Tech forced us to do)

If Wisconsin plays honest defense, stays in 2-deep coverage: run all day (like everyone else.)

Obviously I am making a prediction here, but it is an educated prediction.

wisconsin really does not want to throw 8 or 9 in the box.  Look at this clip.  Iowa  runs a zone scheme like we do.  They do not have playmakers on the outside, yet Wisconsin sat in two-deep for much of this game, content to let Iowa reach their blockers quite easily:

Shonn Greene for Heisman (via Hawkeyeshawn1234)

Watching this film, it is pretty clear that Wisconsin has consistently decided to man-up on the receivers and provide help over the top.  Against 3WR looks, they play 6 in the box.  Against I-formations 2WR, they tend to play 7 in the box.  Only after getting destroyed do they bring their safety into the box.

Personally, I think this is dumb.  Their strong safety is a glorified linebacker and he should play in the box or get off the field. 

Wisconsin has a good defensive end in Matt Shaughnessy, but he has been an underachiever, relative to his talent based expectations. The rest of their front 7 is pretty poor.  It got worse when they found out their best linebacker would miss this game with Knee surgery.  Their linebackers are very undisciplined and they don't have the quickness to recover.

I expect Wisconsin to continue to choose option three.  This is great for the Noles.  We will run all day. 

You MUST be able to play passable run defense with 7 men to stop the Noles.  Wisconsin can't do that.

With Preston Parker and Taiwan Easterling hobbled, expect FSU to use a lot of Carr, Surrency, and Reed.  Owens could also get some run.  FSU will take whatever Wisconsin gives them, and that is just fine.  If FSU plays patient, focused football, they should score a touchdown on every drive. 

The relevant ranks:

  • FSU ranked 22nd in Offensive Efficiency (Nationally).  Wisconsin played one offense ranked ahead of the Noles (Penn State)
  • Wisconsin ranked 35th in Defensive Efficiency (Nationally).  FSU played defenses ranked better than Wisconsin: Boston College, Wake Forest, UF, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Clemson.
  • FSU had the best rushing efficiency offense in the ACC
  • Wisconsin had the 2nd worst rushing defense in the Big 10.  These guys simply cannot stop the run.
  • FSU had the 6th best passing offense in the ACC (this goes along with what I've said all along:  We can't pass pro at all and usually only threw when we had our run game shut down by elite defenses)
  • Wisconsin had the 4th best pass defense in the Big 10.

Yeah... this looks good for the Noles.  I also think we should take the ball instead of deferring.

I think we will rush 45 times (including sacks), for 240 yards.  They are undisciplined, slow, and undersized.   We'll Throw 27 times for 181 yards.  Thats 421 yards of offense, and I think that translates into 35 points. 

Noles 35, Wisconsin 17


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