Tennessee Punting vs. Wisconsin Punt Returns
Tennessee is 38th nationally in net average at 36.4 yards per punt, while Wisconsin is 23rd in punt returns at 12.5 yards per return. Both teams are solid. Advantage: Slight to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Punting vs. Tennessee Punt Returns
Wisconsin is 62nd nationally in net average at 35.1 net yards per punt, while Tennessee is 51st in punt returns at 9.2 yards per return. Tennessee has a very slight advantage, though Ken DeBauche gets some credit for his experience. Advantage: Even.
Wisconsin Kick Returns vs. Tennessee Kick Coverage
Wisconsin is 100th at 19.3 yards per return while Tennessee is 39th in coverage allowing 20.4 yards per return with 4 touchbacks. Tennessee will allow you to return the ball, but their coverage has been solid. Advantage: Tennessee.
Tennessee Kick Returns vs. Wisconsin Kick Coverage
Tennessee is 11th nationally at 24.3 yards per return while Wisconsin is 22nd in coverage allowing 19.4 yards per return with 25 touchbacks. Tennessee is very good , so Taylor Mehlhaff's 25 touchbacks (4th in the nation) is huge, as it is hard to return what is in the endzone. Advantage: Even.
Wisconsin 3rd Down Conversions vs. Tennessee 3rd Down Defense
Wisconsin is 25th in the nation at 44.9% while the Tennessee defense ranks 75th at 40.4% allowed. Wisconsin is solid. Tennessee is mediocre. Advantage: Wisconsin.
Tennessee 3rd Down Conversions vs. Wisconsin 3rd Down Defense
Tennessee is 68th in the nation at 39.1% while the Wisconsin defense ranks 43rd at 36.9% allowed. Tennessee's poor performance here really surprised me given how strong their short passing game is. Advantage: Slight to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin ranks 65th nationally at -1 (18 takeaways/19 giveaways) while Tennessee ranks 29th at +6 (23 takeaways/17 giveaways). Both teams give the ball away about the same, but Wisconsin has not forced as many turnovers. Advantage: Tennessee.
Field Goal Kicking
Taylor Mehlhaff of Wisconsin is 20 for 24 for 83% while Daniel Lincoln of Tennessee is 21 of 28 for 75%. Both are good kickers. Advantage: Slight to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has been penalized 71 times for 561 yards. Tennessee has been penalized 69 times for 581 yards. Advantage: Even.
Time of Possession
Wisconsin ranks 2nd nationally at 33:50 minutes per game while Tennessee ranks 100th at 28:30 per game. This will be a big key as Wisconsin must keep the UT offense off the field. Advantage: Big to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Red Zone Offense vs. Tennessee Red Zone Defense
Wisconsin has scored on 85% of their red zone trips. They have scored 36 touchdowns (25 rushing and 11 passing) and 15 field goals for 5.0 points per possession. Tennessee has allowed scores on 88% of their possessions. They have allowed 31 touchdowns (11 rushing and 21 passing) and 12 field goals for 5.2 points per possession. The Badgers have been solid while the Vols have really struggled. Watch for the Badger tight ends here. Advantage: Wisconsin.
Tennessee Red Zone Offense vs. Wisconsin Red Zone Defense
Tennessee has scored on 91% of their red zone trips. They have scored 39 touchdowns (15 rushing and 24 passing) and 14 field goals for 5.4 points per possession. Wisconsin has allowed scores on 91% of their possessions. They have allowed 22 touchdowns (11 rushing and 11 passing) and 9 field goals for 5.3 points per possession. Just like on the other side of the ball, the offense gets a significant advantage here. Advantage: Tennessee.
The matchups are generally fairly even, though I would give a slight edge to Wisconsin with regards to special teams and miscellaneous stats.
The big caveat is that one of the Tennessee edges, namely turnover margin, can be a hard one to overcome if the Badgers were to lose here.
Aside from turnovers, which are always key, the big ones to watch in my mind are time of possession, where I believe Wisconsin must be in control, and 3rd down conversions. Wisconsin must get off the field on third down, as Tennessee can and will get their points, especially once in the red zone.
Tennessee Scoring vs. Wisconsin Scoring Defense: Tennessee Edge
Wisconsin Scoring vs. Tennessee Scoring Defense: Wisconsin Edge
Wisconsin Rushing Offense vs. Tennessee Rushing Defense: Tennessee Edge
Tennessee Rushing Offense vs. Wisconsin Rushing Defense: Even
Wisconsin Passing Offense vs. Tennessee Passing Defense: Wisconsin Edge
Tennessee Passing Offense vs. Wisconsin Passing Defense: Tennessee Edge
Wisconsin Special Teams/Misc. vs. Tennessee Special Teams/Misc: Wisconsin Edge
Like last year's Badger Capital One Bowl contest against Arkansas, I see a pretty even matchup. The numbers indicated an offensive affair, with both teams looking to have a lot of success throwing the ball.
On paper, Tennessee would seem to have a slight edge due to a couple of their edges being slightly more substantial.
The wildcards here seem to be the injuries and suspensions facing the Badgers and Vols, as it could drastically change the outlook. Will UT still get an edge in terms of stopping their run without a full complement of linebackers? How will Wisconsin's new corner fare against a depleted Tennessee receiving corps?
I also like Erik Ainge to really work over the Badgers with the quick hitting passing attack. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a 31-44 type game from him.
Since I am a homer and since the Badgers have had a lot of success in bowl games, I will stick with the Badgers in a fun and wild affair on a late Taylor Mehlhaff field goal: 34-31 Badgers. Enjoy the game!