Western Michigan looks to cap an undefeated season against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic

Jan. 2 at 1:00 PM ET (ESPN)

No. 15 Western Michigan (13-0) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3)


How They Got Here

Western Michigan is the Cinderella story of the year, going 13-0 in coach P.J. Fleck’s fourth year at the helm. After winning the MAC title, the Broncos were eligible for a New Year’s Six bowl game as the highest-ranked Group of 5 conference champion.

Wisconsin appeared slated for a Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl after taking a 28-7 lead over Penn State in the Big Ten title game. But the Nittany Lions rallied for a 38-31 victory, leaving Wisconsin to be selected for an at-large bid.

When Western Michigan Has the Ball

MAC Championship - Western Michigan v Ohio
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

While they may not be household names, Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis form one of the nation’s top offensive duos. Davis is the FBS career receiving yardage record holder (5,068 yards) and has caught 91 balls for 1,427 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. Terrell, meanwhile, is one of the nation’s most efficient quarterbacks, completing over 70 percent of his passes for 32 touchdowns and just three interceptions. They will pose a unique challenge for a Wisconsin defense that makes big plays but can also be burned. The Badgers rank third in interceptions (21) but have allowed 764 yards (8.7 yards per attempt) and seven touchdowns through the air in their last three games.

When Wisconsin Has the Ball

Minnesota v Wisconsin
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The Badger offense is keyed by running back Corey Clement, who has rushed for 1,304 yards and 14 touchdowns this season despite missing time with an early-season ankle injury. The senior has rushed for 100+ yards in seven of his last eight games.

The Badgers’ quarterback situation, however, remains murky. Freshman Alex Hornibrook left the regular season finale against Minnesota with a head injury and did not play in the Big Ten title game. He was replaced by senior Bart Houston, who began the year as the starter but was benched in the third game of the season. As of press time, Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst has yet to announce who will start in the bowl game.

But whoever is under center, Wisconsin is still a run-first team that could have success against an undersized Bronco defense that gave up 220+ rushing yards to three of its final five opponents.

Keys to the Game

The Wisconsin offensive line outweighs the Bronco defensive line by an average of nearly 30 pounds per man. The Badgers would like nothing more than to just bulldoze straight ahead. If Wisconsin can establish that ground game early, it will keep the Bronco offense on the sideline and could lead to a big game for Corey Clement.

Conversely, the Broncos rank eighth nationally in scoring (43.5 points per game) and Wisconsin gave up 384 yards through the air in the Big Ten title game. If the Western Michigan defense (which held three opponents this year to under 100 yards rushing) can slow down the Badger running game and the Bronco offense can hit a couple of big pass plays, things could get very interesting.

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