Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin Badgers’

Chris James

Wisconsin has produced a 1,000 yard running back 11 of last 12 years.  The Badgers head into 2017 having to replace their top two leading rushers from a year ago. Their leading returnee is sophomore Bradrick Shaw, who had 457 rushing yards. Junior Taiwan Deal has 667 career rushing yards, but underwent ankle surgery over the off season. While either would be a logical choice to take over as the feature back, there’s another player that will likely assume the role.

Chris James ran for 690 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry over 23 games for Pitt in 2014-’15. As part of head coach Paul Chryst’s last recruiting class with the Panthers, James played in every game as a true freshman, rushing for 437 yards, while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He transferred to Wisconsin last year, playing on the practice squad during the season.

The 5’10” 216 pound junior has been compared to 2016 first team Big Ten running back Corey Clement. He has speed and quickness to make big plays in the open field, while also being sturdy enough to run between the tackles. He’s powerfully built and shifty. Despite just eight career receptions, he has the skill-set to accumulate more and is stout in picking up the blitz.

James should benefit from an offensive line that loses just 1 starter. College football expert Phil Steele said this was by far Wisconsin’s best offensive line since Chryst took over as head coach in 2015 and right guard Beau Benzschawel and center Michael Deiter each made Steele’s preseason All Big-Ten team.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if James rushes for the most yards in a season by a Badger under Chryst, provided he stays healthy. It also shouldn’t be a surprise if James is the Big Ten’s leading rusher at seasons end.

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These schools have met six times previously, with USC winning all of them, but the last meeting was in 1966! This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Trojans and they played in this exact bowl last year, beating Nebraska 45-42 (-7). In their previous three non New Years Day bowl games, USC is 2-1 SU/ATS. Head coach Clay Helton is 1-0 SU/ATS in bowls (interim in 2013). Wisconsin is bowling for the 14th straight season. They beat Auburn 34-31 (+6.5) in last years Outback Bowl, and are 4-2 SU/3-3 ATS in non New Years Day bowl games since 1996. Head coach Paul Chryst was 1-1 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at Pittsburgh. 

Despite just returning 11 starters with a new head coach, Wisconsin was expected to win the Big Ten West division. Corey Clement was expected to replace Melvin Gordon, but he’s been banged up. They went 3-1 in the non-conference portion of their schedule with an expected loss to Alabama, then lost their first conference game to eventual West division champion Iowa. The Badgers then won five straight, but were upset at home against Northwestern as a double-digit favorite. They finished the season with a win over Minnesota. Wisconsin held six of their opponents to either their lowest or second lowest yards total and are No. 6 in the FBS allowing 114 yards per game less then their foes average. They have a top notch defense, being superior both against the pass and the run.

USC looked like a National Title contender when the season began as their sanctions ended. At 2-0, they hosted eventual Pac-12 champion Stanford as nearly a double-digit favorite, but lost by 10. After a loss to Washington, head coach Steve Sarkisian was let go for personal reasons and defensive coordinator Clay Helton took over. They then lost to Notre Dame, but after beating Utah, controlled their fate in the South division. The Trojans went 4-1 down the stretch, losing only to Oregon as a ‘dog. USC again lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. Helton was hired as the permanent head coach, but has let go of five defensive assistants since the end of the regular season.

Wisconsin enters this game plus 110 yards per game and outgained Iowa by 99 yards in their home loss. USC played against 11 bowl teams and were plus 48 yards per game, while the Badgers played just five bowl teams. While Wisconsin does have the defensive edge, USC has an abundance of skill players on offense and it will be interesting to see what side comes out on top.