Tiger offense v. Badger defense
|Auburn projected starters||Wisconsin projected starters|
|QB Jason Campbell (Jr. 6-5, 228)||DE Joe Thomas (Fr. 6-8, 260)|
|WR Ben Obomanu (So. 6-1, 197||DT Anttaj Hawthorne (Jr. 6-3, 300)|
|WR Jeris McIntyre (Sr. 6-0, 198)||DT Jason Jefferson (Jr. 6-3, 307)|
|TB Carnell Williams (Jr. 5-11, 204)||DE Jonathan Welsh (Jr. 6-4, 228)|
|FB Brandon Johnson (Sr. 6-1, 234)||LB LaMarr Watkins (So. 6-1, 216)|
|LT Mark Pera (Sr. 6-6, 312)||LB Jeff Mack (Sr. 6-0, 244)|
|LG Troy Reddick (So. 6-5, 306)||LB Alex Lewis (Sr. 6-1, 237)|
|C Danny Lindsey (Jr. 6-3, 299)||CB Scott Starks (Jr. 5-10, 168)|
|RG Monreko Crittenden (Sr. 6-5, 332)||SS Ryan Aiello (Sr. 6-1, 196)|
|RT Marcus McNeill (So. 6-9, 322)||FS Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)|
|TE Cooper Wallace (So. 6-4, 252)||CB Levonne Rowan (So. 6-1, 178)|
Auburn: TB Ronnie Brown (Jr. 6-1, 224), WR Courtney Taylor (Fr. 6-2, 194), WR Anthony Mix (So. 6-5, 230), TB/LB Brandon Jacobs (Jr. 6-4, 257), TB Tre Smith (So. 5-10, 200), WR Silas Daniels (Jr. 6-0, 188), QB Josh Sullivan (Fr. 6-4, 208).
Wisconsin: CB Chuckie Cowans (Jr. 5-8, 169), LB Kyle McCorison (Sr. 6-0, 242), DT/DE Nick Cochart (Sr. 6-1, 267), DT Kalvin Barrett (Jr. 6-2, 316), WR/CB Brandon Williams (So. 5-11, 170), LB Mark Zalewski (Fr. 6-2, 232), LB Kareem Timbers (Jr. 6-3, 209), LB Elliot Goode (So. 6-2, 240).
When the Tigers have the ball...
Keep an eye on Carnell Williams ... if you can. The junior tailback racked up 1,239 yards and 15 touchdowns in the regular season and will be a key cog in Auburn's offensive machine against Wisconsin. Williams was named SEC Player of the Week three consecutive weeks, the first conference player to achieve such a milestone. Juniors Brandon Jacobs (446 yards) and Ronnie Brown (384) were quality reserves for the Tigers. Jacobs, though, has been practicing at linebacker during bowl preparations. A solid running game needs an offensive line to protect it and Auburn brings that to the table as well. Four of the front five weigh more than 300 pounds each, while the fifth, junior center Danny Lindsey, weighs in at 299, dispelling the myth that SEC athletes are smaller and more athletic than those of the Big Ten, though Auburn certainly boasts plenty of athleticism. The physical Tiger line is led by first-team All-SEC pick Monreko Crittenden. This line also protects junior quarterback Jason Campbell, who threw for 2,129 yards, including 10 touchdowns. His primary target has been senior wide receiver Jeris McIntyre, who had 547 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, Wisconsin will obviously focus on slowing down Williams and the Auburn running game. In order to have any chance at doing so, the Badgers must control the line of scrimmage and match Auburn's physical style. Defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne, who has played as well as any lineman in the country this season, will command a starring role in this effort. Hawthorne, tackle Jason Jefferson and end Jonathan Welsh will rarely leave the field Wednesday for a defensive line that has been severely hampered by injury.
As a result, the defense has undergone some changes during bowl practices and will need to adapt and gel in a hurry in order to stop Auburn, particularly its running game. Joe Thomas, formerly an offensive lineman, has been practicing at defensive end and will suit up in that position on Wednesday, sharing time with freshman Joe Monty. Wisconsin's lack of depth could prove troublesome against an offense that can physically take over a game.
Meanwhile, junior safety Robert Brooks will start for the second time in his career, replacing Ryan Aiello at strong safety. The Badgers will likely rotate corners Chuckie Cowans and Levonne Rowan opposite Scott Starks. The Badgers will sell out to stop the run, as any team playing Auburn will tend to do, placing plenty of pressure on Wisconsin's secondary to stand tall and make plays.
Badger offense v. Tiger defense
|Wisconsin projected starters||Auburn projected starters|
|QB Jim Sorgi (Sr. 6-5, 190)||DE Bret Eddins (Jr. 6-5, 267)|
|TB TB Anthony Davis (Jr. 5-8, 191)||NG DeMarco McNeill (Sr. 6-2, 291)|
|FB Matt Bernstein (So. 6-2, 273)||DT Spencer Johnson (Sr. 6-3, 289)|
|WR Lee Evans (Sr. 5-11, 202)||DE Reggie Torbor (Sr. 6-3, 246)|
|WR B. Williams (So. 5-11, 170)||LB Travis Williams (So. 6-1, 209)|
|LT Morgan Davis (Jr. 6-5, 326)||LB Dontarrious Thomas (Sr. 6-4, 241)|
|LG Dan Buenning (Jr. 6-4, 298)||LB Karlos Dansby (Sr. 6-5, 234)|
|C Donovan Raiola (So. 6-3, 290)||CB Montavis Pitts (Fr. 6-3, 190)|
|RG J. Clinkscale (Jr. 6-3, 308)||LS Will Herring (Fr. 6-4, 210)|
|RT Mike Lorenz (So. 6-5, 313)||RS Junior Rosegreen (Jr. 6-0, 189|
|TE Tony Paciotti (Jr. 6-4, 263)||CB Carlos Rogers (Jr. 6-1, 194)|
Wisconsin: Dwayne Smith (So. 5-11, 225), TB Booker Stanley (Fr. 5-10, 207), WR/TE Owen Daniels (So. 6-3, 213), WR Jonathan Orr (So. 6-3, 190), WR Darrin Charles (Jr. 6-6, 210), TE Jason Pociask (So. 6-3, 250), WR Ernest Mason (Fr. 5-11, 180), WR Brandon White (So. 6-3, 182), OT/TE Joe Thomas (Fr. 6-8, 280), QB Matt Schabert (Jr. 6-2, 203).
Auburn: CB Kevin Hobbs (So. 6-0, 179), NG T.J. Jackson (So. 6-1, 304), S Karibi Dede (Fr. 6-1, 200), S Donnay Young (Jr. 6-0, 198), LB Derrick Graves (Jr. 6-1, 216), CB Lamel Ages (Jr. 5-9, 187), DT Tim Duckworth (Fr. 6-3, 298), LB Antarrious Williams (So. 5-11, 208), TB/LB Brandon Jacobs (Jr. 6-4, 257).
When the Badgers have the ball…
Anthony Davis will start Wednesday after battling injuries to both of his ankles during the regular season. The Badgers have plenty of depth, and if Davis goes down, tailbacks Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley will fill in nicely. Auburn is also likely to sell out versus the run but has to be wary of Wisconsin's passing game, with a healthy Jim Sorgi enjoying one last opportunity to throw to Lee Evans and the rest of the Badgers receivers.
Auburn boasts one of the nation's top defenses, which is rated No. 6 overall, allowing only 283.3 yards per game this season. They have given up only 187.8 passing yards per contest. The Tigers will start redshirt freshman Montavis Pitts at corner Wednesday. Pitts recorded five tackles and two pass breakups defensively this season and led Auburn with eight special teams tackles. He will certainly have his hands full with Evans and Brandon Williams lining up across from him.
Perhaps the biggest key for Wisconsin will be keeping Sorgi healthy, not an easy task against a front seven as good as any the Badgers have faced this year. All-American linebacker Karlos Dansby (74 tackles, 12 for loss, four sacks) highlights the talented group. Defensive tackle DeMarco McNeil (48-12-6), defensive end Reggie Torbor (31-12-7) and linebacker Dontarrious Thomas (71-8-0) are also likely to cause havoc at or around the line of scrimmage.
Special Teams matchup
|Wisconsin specialists||Auburn specialists|
|P R.J. Morse (Jr. 6-1, 246)||Kody Bliss (Fr. 5-11, 172)|
|PK Mike Allen (Jr. 6-2, 186)||Phillip Yost (Jr. 6-0, 187)|
|KO Scott Campbell (Sr. 6-0, 245)||Yost|
|KR B. Williams (So. 5-11, 170)||Devin Aromashodu (So. 6-2, 205)|
|PR Jim Leonhard (Jr. 5-8, 183)||Tre Smith (So. 5-10, 200)|
|LS Matt Katula (Jr. 6-6, 282)||Jeremy Wells (Sr. 6-1, 242)|
|H Matt Schabert (Jr. 6-2, 203)||Justin Fetsko (Sr. 5-9, 167)|
Yet another strength-on-strength matchup in this Music City Bowl pegs Wisconsin's Jim Leonhard against Auburn punter Kody Bliss. Leonhard is one of the most dangerous punt returners in the country. Bliss, meanwhile, averages 42.7 yards per punt and opponents are only averaging 8.8 yards per return against the Tigers' coverage units. Perhaps more impressively, in 59 punt attempts, Bliss has landed 21 inside the 20 against only five touchbacks and has coerced 16 fair catches. He owns a long of 62 yards and had an 82-yard punt (that traveled 64 yards in the air) called back due to an illegal procedure penalty.
The rest of Auburn's special teams is far less exciting. The Tigers return game has been adequate, while their kick coverage, allowing 24.6 yards per attempt, has some holes that Badger returner Brandon Williams could exploit.
Neither team has done much in the kicking game. Each team has split up its field goal kicking duties this season and, in an odd statistical quirk, each team has made 11 of 19 field goal attempts, though Phillip Yost has hit from 57 yards out.
Despite, or perhaps because they each finished 7-5, Wisconsin and Auburn have plenty to play for in Nashville. Each team entered the season with high expectations and would like to end the season on a high note, win for their seniors and take this positive with them to next season. Typical end of year motivation to be sure but with a pair of physical, talented teams before what should prove to be a rather spirited crowd, the Music City Bowl should get the show it asked for.
Auburn has the talent to give Wisconsin's offense fits, but the Badgers have outplayed highly touted defenses before. With Anthony Davis and Jim Sorgi healthy, there is no reason to believe that Wisconsin will struggle offensively in this game - that, of course, assumes that Davis and Sorgi stay on the field. Auburn has been stout against the run and the pass but their secondary may have a tough time containing Lee Evans and Brandon Williams.
Auburn's offense and Wisconsin's defense also seem to match up well with one another. The Badgers, though, have struggled to stop teams that like to run along the perimeter, which is the Tigers forte. Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell is not a world-beater by any measure, but if Wisconsin sells out too much he can take advantage.
This game has all the makings of a give-and-take slugfest. Expect Wisconsin, though, to make a few more plays at the end. The Badgers have typically played to their utmost potential in bowl games and this contest will be no different.
Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Auburn 24