Even though contractual tie-ins dictated the selection, it still seemed a bit unfair when bowl match-ups were announced Dec. 3 and the University of Wisconsin was placed in the Orange Bowl against Miami.
The Hurricanes won’t leave their home city and take on the Badgers in a "neutral-site” game at Hard Rock Stadium — the same venue Miami compiled a 7-0 record this season.
Bowl trips are about more than just the game, however, and sixth-ranked UW’s certainly not complaining about traveling into enemy territory to play the country’s 10th-ranked team in one of the most prestigious non-playoff bowls.
"I kind of feel bad for them because they don’t get the whole bowl experience,” UW right guard Beau Benzschawel said.
Come game time, however, the Hurricanes may be quite glad to have stayed home when much of the crowd is behind them.
Per a UW official, the Badgers have only sold about half of their 14,000-ticket allotment. Plenty of UW fans likely went through the secondary market for their tickets, and it won’t be possible to predict the exact crowd split before game time, but it’s difficult to imagine anything other than a significant advantage for Miami in the stands.
"With bowl games, sometimes crowd noise is a factor, sometimes it isn’t,” UW left tackle Michael Deiter said. "It’s definitely going to be a little bit of a factor in this one. It’s definitely a true road game for us. It’s still a bowl game so I think we’ll travel well fans-wise, but it’ll definitely be loud."
The Orange Bowl will do everything it can to level the playing field.
Rather than eating home-cooked meals and sleeping in their own beds, the Hurricanes will mimmic UW by staying in a hotel the entire week leading up to the game.
Miami also won’t practice on its home practice field or have access to its own locker room at Hard Rock Stadium.
“We take great strides to make sure that the University of Miami will have a situation very comparable to the situation that Wisconsin will have as a traveling team,” Orange Bowl executive committee member Brad Houser said. "We try to do things to make it as even-handed and fair as we possibly can.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got Miami kids, many of whom went to high school in South Florida, and their families are there. But we expect a lot of red in the stands, too."
The Badgers aren’t strangers to playing in hostile environments, the most notable coming from a primetime game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., back on Oct. 7, a 38-17 win over the Cornhuskers.
UW’s not worrying too much about the disadvantage it could face in Miami. The opportunity to play a top-10 team in the Orange Bowl — regardless of where that team’s from — has led to more excitement for the Badgers than anything else.
“It is kind of weird, but I know that we’ve played in some unbelievable atmospheres this year,” UW right tackle David Edwards said. "It’s going to be a good challenge, whether we’re on the road or at a neutral site. They’re going to be juiced up. We’re going to be juiced up. It should be a really fun game."