Orlando, Fla. (ap) — If the Champs Sports Bowl were a horse race, Florida State thinks it would be easy to handicap.
“It’s kind of the thoroughbreds against Clydesdales,” said Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, leaving no doubt he’s sure it’s the Seminoles with the pure speed in their matchup today against Wisconsin.
The Badgers aren’t buying the stereotype.
“Which one are we?” Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema asked, sounding miffed. “We have speed, too.”
Badger linebacker DeAndre Levy simply laughed at the comparison.
“It’s all good,” he said. “We’ll just send them to the glue factory.”
There’s more to this matchup than debating brawn vs. speed, though, including how some players perform in a game that means plenty to both teams.
Wisconsin wants to finish strong after an 8-5 season that saw the Badgers drop from a No. 8 national ranking to out of the AP poll after losing their first four Big Ten games.
Florida State is trying to win nine games for the first time in four seasons and give Bobby Bowden redemption. With a win, Bowden may retire and turn the job over to offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, though the 79-year-old legend has shown no indication of doing so. FSU signed Fisher to an extension this season, with the stipulation that he will succeed Bowden by 2010.
“It’s been a while since Florida State won nine games,” Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder said. “A win would be a great way to head into the offseason.”
Both quarterbacks figure to be under scrutiny.
Ponder, a sophomore, returns from injury to direct a Seminoles attack predicated on his ability to run and spread the field.
Bowden said he expects the time off since the Seminoles fell to Florida in late November to lead to a crisper attack.
“There’ve been too many dropped passes, too much of not being on the same page,” he said.
FSU’s passing attack ranks 87th in the nation with a 192-yard-per-game average. Ponder is 89th in pass efficiency, completing 55 percent of his passes with 13 INTs and 12 TDs.
Wisconsin junior Dustin Sherer didn’t throw his first TD pass until mid-October, a month after replacing injured starter Allen Evridge. He’s completed 55 percent of his passes, with five TDs and five INTs.
Both must prove they can offset their passing shortcomings.
Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Doeren said Wisconsin must keep the Seminoles, who run much of their offense from a one-back set, from spreading the field and working the outside edges.
“You have to leverage the ball, keep them inside, contain their speed and stay with our assignments,” Doeren said.
Wisconsin will be without backup cornerback Mario Goins, who is academically ineligible.
Florida State must stop a Wisconsin rushing attack that ranked first in the Big Ten and 14th nationally with a 212-yard game average.