MIAMI LAKES, Fla. — Miami has thrived when playing before its home crowd all season. Wisconsin has gone onto to opponent’s fields five times and posted five easy wins.
That alone means this could be a classic Orange Bowl.
A pair of teams with College Football Playoff aspirations for much of the season — and who saw those hopes end with losses in conference championship games this weekend — will meet in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes’ home field.
“More important than where it is, it’s the opportunity,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “It’s an opportunity to play against a great Miami team. And so our kids will be excited. They know it’s going to be a challenge. To play in and be part of the Orange Bowl, that’s a big deal.”
No. 11 Miami (10-2, No. 10 CFP) is going to the Orange for the 10th time. It’s the first Orange Bowl for No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1, No. 6 CFP).
Miami went 7-0 at home — and will stay there, since this technically is a neutral-site game. Wisconsin went 5-0 in true road games, winning by an average of 25.6 points.
“We’re playing in one of the best bowl games against a great team,” Chryst said. “That’s enough to get your kids excited.”
Miami coach Mark Richt, like Chryst, was out recruiting Sunday. The Hurricanes are getting a much-needed break for the next few days, after playing 11 straight weeks after their schedule was readjusted because of many complications statewide caused by Hurricane Irma hitting in September.
“I know for our players, it’s got to be a welcome relief for them physically and mentally and maybe spiritually as well,” Richt said. “I know for me and the coaching staff — just like Paul’s on the road right now, we’re on the road as well — it does give you a little bit of a break of the gameplanning and all the things that have to be done to prepare week-by-week.”
The Hurricanes and Badgers last played in 2009 at the Champs Sports Bowl. Both have strong defenses, with Wisconsin’s ranking No. 1 nationally in yards allowed in No. 2 in points allowed.
And even though the Badgers missed the CFP, players say sending the seniors out winners will remain a priority.
“They deserve to go out with a win,” Badgers offensive lineman Michael Deiter said. “The things they’ve done for this program and this football team, they deserve to go out and win a bowl game and go out the right way.”
Miami is just the third team to go to the Orange Bowl while on a two-game losing streak. The others were both LSU teams, in the 1943 and 1973 seasons.
“It’s a home game,” Miami receiver Braxton Berrios said. “I think that will be really exciting for the team.”
Here’s some of what to know about the Orange Bowl matchup:
HOME, SORT OF: Miami will be the designated home team for the game. But it will technically be called a neutral-site game, and the Hurricanes likely won’t get to use their usual locker room. Past “home” teams for the Orange Bowl have used the Miami Dolphins’ locker room on game night.
UNCOMMON OPPONENTS: There’s no common opponent between Wisconsin and Miami this season, and it’s only the fifth time that the Badgers and Hurricanes will meet. They’ve split four previous matchups.
BADGERS CHASING HISTORY: Wisconsin gets a second chance at recording win No. 13, which would be a single-season record at a school that started playing football in 1889. Wisconsin was 12-1 in the 2006 season, the first year that former coach Bret Bielema was running things in Madison.
ORANGE SUCCESS: Miami is 6-3 in previous trips to the Orange Bowl, with the Hurricanes’ last time in South Florida’s showcase bowl game coming when they topped Florida State 16-14 on Jan. 1, 2004. Until now, that 2003 season was Miami’s last 10-win campaign.
FAMILIAR GROUND: Wisconsin has nine players from the state of Florida, including five from the Miami area and one — wide receiver Paul Jackson, who hasn’t recorded any stats this season — who lists Miami Gardens as his hometown. Miami Gardens is the city where Hard Rock Stadium is located. There are no Wisconsin natives on the Miami roster.