Capital One Bowl - Matchup analysis

A close look at Wisconsin and Auburn leading up to Monday's game in Orlando.

Auburn offense versus Wisconsin defense

Auburn projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

QB Brandon Cox (So. 6-2, 202) MLB Mark Zalewski (Jr. 6-2, 228)
TB Kenny Irons (Jr. 5-11, 202) WLB Dontez Sanders (Sr. 6-1, 223)
WR Anthony Mix (Sr. 6-5, 248) SLB LaMarr Watkins (Sr. 6-1, 223)
LT Marcus McNeil (Sr. 6-9, 337) RE Jason Chapman (Fr. 6-4, 280)
LG Ben Grubbs (Jr. 6-3, 302) RT Nick Hayden (So. 6-5, 302)
C Joe Cope (Jr. 6-0, 276) LT Justin Ostrowski (So.6-5, 304)
RG Tim Duckworth (Jr. 6-3, 326) LE Joe Monty (Jr. 6-2, 252)
RT Troy Reddick (Sr. 6-5, 335) SS Joe Stellmacher (Jr. 6-1, 216)
TE Cooper Wallace (Sr. 6-4, 265) FS Roderick Rogers (Jr. 6-2, 181)
WR Ben Obomanu (Sr. 6-1, 198) CB Levonne Rowan (Sr. 6-1, 191)
WR Devin Aromashodu (Sr. 6-2, 202) CB Allen Langford (Fr. 5-11, 187)

Auburn's offense will revolve around junior running back Kenny Irons, who led the SEC and was 18th  in the country with 109.5 rushing yards per game. If that number does not sound impressive enough, he only had 34 yards in the first two games of the season combined. He had a season-high 218 yards on the ground in the Tigers' overtime loss to LSU one week after a 33-carry, 182-yard effort at Arkansas.

With a monster Auburn offensive line, the Badger front four will have its hands full in the trenches, and will probably need to rely on sound tackling from the linebackers behind them if they hope to contain Irons. That may not bode well for Mark Zalewski and the linebacker unit, which has struggled down the stretch, although the month off has helped them clear up some nagging injuries. Safety Joe Stellmacher has come up with a variety of big plays this year, including a touchdown-saving goal-line tackle against Michigan while battling an injury, and will need to make more big stops. Also, backup will linebacker DeAndre Levy has had a solid freshman year and could make a difference in a reserve role.

Wisconsin has had the most trouble this season against mobile quarterbacks, and Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox does not pose a threat in that area. He has gained just 51 yards on the ground all season and, thanks to sacks, finished with a net of -97 rushing yards.

Even though no one wide receiver's statistics jump off the page, Cox has been effective in spreading the ball around to all of his veterans this year. Ben Obomanu has been solid and has a team-high 28 receptions while Devin Aromashodu gives the Tigers a deep threat. He had 478 receiving yards, including a 62-yard touchdown grab.

The Badgers will rely on youngsters Allen Langford and Jack Ikegwuonu in the secondary, but the two cornerbacks have played well in their freshman year opposite seniors Brett Bell and Levonne Rowan. Auburn's receivers may be the most physical UW has faced all season, which could pose a significant challenge. Again, watch out for a clutch play by Stellmacher or a timely play from Roderick Rogers, who has stepped up his game during this season.

Wisconsin offense versus Auburn defense

Auburn projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

LB Karibi Dede (Jr. 6-0, 216) QB John Stocco (Jr. 6-2, 197)
LB Travis Williams (Sr. 6-1, 217) TB Brian Calhoun (Jr. 5-10, 203)
LB Antarrious Williams (Sr. 5-11, 206) FB Chris Pressley (So. 6-1, 256)
DE Marquies Gunn (Jr. 6-4, 238) LT Joe Thomas (Jr. 6-8, 303)
DT Wayne Dickens (Sr. 6-1, 303) LG Matt Lawrence (Sr. 6-5, 295)
NG T.J. Jackson (Sr. 6-1, 305) C Donovan Raiola (Sr. 6-3, 294)
DE Stanley McClover (Jr. 6-3, 260) RG Jason Palermo (Sr. 6-3, 307)
S Will Herring (Jr. 6-3, 220) RT Kraig Urbik (Fr. 6-6, 317)
S Steve Gandy (So. 6-1, 202) TE Owen Daniels (Sr. 6-3, 247)
CB Jonathan Wilhite (So. 5-11, 171) WR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)
CB David Irons (Sr. 6-1, 189) WR Jonathan Orr (Sr. 6-3, 190)

The Badgers will rely on their running game. Brian Calhoun has been their go-to-guy all year and that will not change. He will need to have a big-time game for Wisconsin to have a chance to win. Calhoun struggled mightily in the losses to Penn State and Iowa to close out the Big Ten season, but bounced back after a week off against Hawaii. The month off should have him energized and ready to go.

On the opposite side, the Tigers hope to use a speedy front seven. They have a pair of defensive ends that could wreak havoc and if offensive tackle Kraig Urbik is not ready for Stanley McClover, the junior defensive end could have a Tamba Hali-type day. The speed on the outside of the line and at the linebacker position will probably force Calhoun to run more between the tackles with a more physical-type game.

UW quarterback John Stocco has quietly had a big season for the Badgers and will have to get the Badgers rolling early in this game. Brandon Williams has had a great senior effort and needs 78 yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. Classmate Jonathan Orr has a knack for coming up with a clutch touchdown in big games and led the team with eight touchdown catches this year. But the passing offense will only work well if the Badgers can establish a running game early on. 

Linebackers Travis Williams and Antarrious Williams have the speed to both put pressure on Stocco as well as drop into coverage. This will be especially important in keeping track of Calhoun, who is also a big threat in the Badgers' offense as a receiver. Safety Will Herring led the team with 64 tackles this year, and as mentioned before, McClover could be a nightmare and has seven sacks this year.

Wisconsin versus Auburn special teams

Auburn projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

PK/KO John Vaughn (Jr. 6-1, 201)/Matt Clark (Jr. 6-1, 181) PK/KO Taylor Mehlhaff (So. 5-11, 179)
P/H Kody Bliss (Jr. 5-11, 177)/Matthew Motley (So. 5-10, 177) P/H Ken DeBauche (So. 6-2, 219)
PS/PKS Pete Compton (So. 6-6, 239)/Chas Crofoot (Sr. 6-1, 190) LS Steve Johnson (So. 6-3, 247)
PR Robert Dunn (Fr. 6-0, 169) PR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)
KR Devin Aromashodu (Sr. 6-2, 202) KR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)

Auburn's special teams is nothing extraordinary on paper. Punt returner Tre Smith averaged just 7.8 yards per return during the regular season and is expected to be replaced by Robert Dunn. Aromashodu handles most kickoff returns and averages 24.6 yards per return, with a season-long of 52 yards. Kicker John Vaughn is just 11-of-19 on the year in the field goal department. Long story short: this unit will more often lose a close game for the Tigers than it will break one open and lead them to victory.

The same cannot be said for Wisconsin. The most consistent unit all year for the team may need a big special teams effort if the Badgers want to win this game. Brandon Williams has established himself as a great return man, averaging 15.6 yards per punt return, including two touchdowns, and 28 yards per kick return. He has the chance to bring any return to the house and it will be interesting to see if Auburn gives him that chance on kickoffs, or opts to kick the ball short. Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff has been steady all year and his strong leg on kickoffs usually takes a return out of the picture.

Wisconsin punter Ken DeBauche and Auburn's Kody Bliss have both had good seasons, with each averaging 44.8 yards per boot.

Final thoughts

The Badgers have their work cut out for them, as signified by their position as 11-point underdogs in the game. Auburn's speed on defense will dictate the game, forcing Calhoun inside and Wisconsin may struggle to establish a ground game. Expect a big game out of McClover and the Tiger linebackers.

On the other side of the ball, Kenny Irons will continue his solid junior campaign. He should eclipse the 100-yard mark and could pile on many more if the Tigers get the ball rolling early. Cox will have another efficient effort and the Badgers will struggle to stay in this one.

Badger Nation Prognostication: Auburn 31, Wisconsin 14

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