You could spend hours going over the analytics, the matchups, the tendencies and for what?
Buddy the Macaw has already made his choice for the winner of Saturday’s Orange Bowl.
On Dec. 19, Buddy’s handlers at Zoo Miami put the colorful bird a few steps away from two helmets, one for the University of Wisconsin and one for Miami.
Buddy stopped and gave a glance to the Badgers helmet, then kept walking right to the Hurricanes side and clamped his beak on the face mask.
The ornithological choice, however, doesn’t match the Vegas favorite and many of the predictions by college football experts.
It’s essentially a road game for the Badgers in Miami, but they still opened as a 6½-point favorite at the sports book at Caesars Palace. By Thursday morning, that had narrowed to 5½, with some books going as low as 4½.
Analytics site FiveThirtyEight ranked the Orange Bowl the fifth-best game of the bowl season, behind the two College Football Playoff semifinals (Sugar and Rose), Cotton and Peach.
The crystal ball
As for predictions, you can find some going each way.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, who picked the Big Ten Conference to go 6-2 this bowl season, has the Badgers winning 23-17.
“We know how good Miami can be on its home field, but unless the turnover chain comes out 3-4 times — Wisconsin has committed 23 turnovers this season — the Canes could be in trouble,” he wrote. “Wisconsin’s defense will redeem itself in a big way, and running back Jonathan Taylor will have a strong finish to his freshman season.”
Six of seven predictions compiled by Sports Illustrated favored the Badgers.
“These teams followed similar trajectories this season, but it’s hard to look much worse than Miami did in its final two games against Pittsburgh and Clemson,” he wrote. “The Hurricanes got manhandled by the Tigers in the ACC title game, and the Badgers are similarly stout up the middle.”
Those choosing the Hurricanes pointed toward the home-field advantage they’ll enjoy at Hard Rock Stadium.
Bill Bender of the Sporting News picked the Hurricanes to win 24-21.
“How will Wisconsin’s big offensive line match up against Miami’s defensive line? That’s everything in this matchup,” he wrote. “Quarterbacks Alex Hornibrook and Malik Rosier must protect the ball, but we like the Hurricanes in a de facto home game.”
Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon sees Miami overcoming some key absences to win 23-17.
“Succeeding against the Wisconsin defense at full strength is hard enough,” he wrote. “Miami will be without its most talented running back (Mark Walton), receiver (Ahmmon Richards) and tight end (Chris Herndon) in the bowl game. However, the combination of Miami’s run defense and Alex Hornibrook’s turnover woes is a major problem for the Badgers in what is effectively a home game for the ’Canes.”
By Saturday night, we’ll know who’s to be trusted: A Vegas betting line or the beak of a bird.