Saturday, December 27, 2008

Champs Sports Bowl: Wisconsin (7-5) vs. Florida State (8-4)

The Big Ten Conference kicks off the 2008-09 bowl season when the Wisconsin Badgers (7-5, tied for 6Th in the Big Ten) vs. the Florida State Seminoles (8-4, tied for 1ST in the ACC Atlantic Division) square off in the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl. The prospects for the Big Ten are not strong for the conference this bowl season with only one Big Ten team favored to win in the 2008-09 bowl season.

Wisconsin is playing in its seventh straight bowl game and their first non-January bowl, since the 2003 Music City Bowl, where they lost to Auburn 14-28. Florida State has been a bowl participate, since the 1982 season, including three straight BCS title games after the 1998-2000 seasons. The Seminoles lost last year's Music City Bowl to Kentucky 28-35, while the Badgers lost 17-21 to Tennessee in last year's Outback Bowl. The Badgers last beat a ACC team in the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl to Duke 34-20, while the Seminoles lost to the Big Ten last time out, in the 2006 Orange Bowl 23-26 in 3OT vs. Penn State.

What direction is coach Bret Bielema taking Wisconsin as he closes out his third season, after replacing successful Barry Alvarez at the helm? Some in Iowa City are beginning to compare Bielema, the former Hawkeye defensive lineman, to former wrestling coach Jim Zalesky, who replaced highly successful coach Dan Gable. The first couple of years for Zalesky were highly successful, but the Mojo didn't remain long for the highly successful wrestling program under Zalesky. Can Bielema find his Mojo again at Wisconsin, after 12-1 and 9-4 his first two seasons?

What direction is Florida State going as coach Bobby Bowden finishes out his 33Rd season at the helm for the Seminoles? The Seminoles had 14 straight seasons of finishing in the Top Five in the final polls through 2000, but they haven't been back since. How many more years does Bowden have in Tallahassee? Could this be the final moment, before Jimbo Fisher takes over the reigns for good for Florida State?

Wisconsin's top two wins were at Fresno State and against Minnesota this season. But, this is a team that was an extra point or two away from losing their final regular season game to Cal Poly, a FCS program. On the flip side, Florida State won back to back road games at Miami-FL and North Carolina State, then beat Virginia Tech, the ACC's BCS representative. But, the home finale vs. #1 Florida was a 15-45 loss, which was very similar to last year's 12-45 loss in Gainsville.

Florida State clearly appears to be the better team on paper as the favorite. The Seminoles won their last bowl game in the 2004 Gator Bowl as a favorite, over West Virginia, so look for the Seminoles to have the upper hand in the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl. The key for both teams will be quarterback play, UW's Dustin Sherer vs. FSU's Christian Ponder. Neither has to place their teams, respectively, on their shoulders, but they need to manage the game properly and avoid mistakes. Turnovers likely will determine the outcome of the game.

Cidsports' prediction

Wisconsin 18
Florida State 30


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