The 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic matches two teams that had outstanding seasons -- Western Michigan and Wisconsin.
The Western Michigan Broncos, Mid-American Conference champions, head to the Cotton Bowl following the first undefeated season in school history, as they became the first MAC team since Marshall in 1999 to go 13-0.
After capturing the . . .
Here is a look at the two teams as they battle for just the fifth time in their history and the 81st Cotton Bowl Classic
LAST TIME OUT: The Broncos won the 2-16 Marathon MAC Football Championship Game on December 2nd at Ford Field in Detroit, defeating the Ohio Bobcats, 29-23, before a championship game record crowd of 45,615.
WMU built a 23-7 halftime lead, only to see the East Division-winning Bobcats take advatange of a pair of turnovers. Ohio closed the gap to 26-23 midway through the fourth quarter. The Broncos then went on a time-consuming drive that resulted in a field goal with 1:24 left, pushing the margin to six.
Ohio's ensuing drive reached the WMU 37, but Robert Spillane intercepted Greg Windham’s pass to secure the Broncos first undefeated season and MAC championship since 1988.
QB Zach Terrell completed 19-0f-31 passes for 290 yards and two touchdoiwns. WR Corey Davis had eight catches for 144 yards and 70-yard catch and run score in the second quarter. RB Jarvion Franklin had 26 carries for 78 yards. Defensively, Spillane had seven total tackles (five solo) to go along with his interception
ON THE SEASON: In the pre-season media and coaches polls, the Broncos were the favorites to take the division and end a six-year reign by the Northern Illinois Huskies.
WMU opened the 2016 season at Northwestern and came away with a last minute 22-21 win over the Wildcats. After a home-opening rout of North Carolina Central, Western traveled to Illinois, defeating the Fighting Illini before finishhing the non-conference schedule with a home win over Georgia State.
When MAC play began, the Broncos became a juggernaut, registering convincing victories over Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Akron, and Ball State. Only twice were the Broncos challenged for an entire game. The first was at home by surprising Eastern Michigan. That game ended with WMU posting a 45-31 win. A second big challenge came from Kent State under rainy and chilly conditions. The Broncos pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 37-21 victory.
After the KSU win, Western finished the regular season with strong wins over Buffalo and Toledo -- the latter nailing down the Western Division Championship, 55-35.
OFFENSE: WMU is averaging 43.5 points and 496 yards per game
RUSHING: Jarvion Franklin 241 carries – 1306 yards 12 touchdowns
PASSING: Zach Terrell 247-344-3 3776 yds. 32 touchdowns
RECEIVING: Corey Davis 91 receptions - 1427 yards 18 TD
DEFENSE: The Broncos are allowing 19.5 points and 353 yards per game
TACKLES: Robert Spillane (56-49-108)
TACKLES FOR LOSSES: Keion Adams 17-74 yds.
SACKS: Adams 7.5-54
INTERCEPTIONS: Darious Phillips 4 – 263 yds. three touchdowns
PUNTING: James Coleman 24 -40.2 yds. per kick
PLACE KICKING: Butch Hampton 124 pts (18-23 FG/70-71 PAT)
KICK RETURNS: Darious Phillips 38-22.7 yds. per return one TD
PUNT RETURNS: Phillips 18-12.3 yds. Per return one TD
BRONCOS NOTES: WMU is just the 13th ‘Group of Five’ school since 1998 to finish the regular season with a 12-0 mark and the first MAC team to go 13-0 since Marshall in 1999…WR Corey Davis leads the FBS in receiving touchdown with 18 and in his career has the FBS record with 5,212 yards and the first receiver in FBS history with 300 or more catches, 5000 or more yards and 50 touchdowns…WMU leads the FBS in turnover margin with a +18 and were the last time to commit a turnover (vs. Akron on October 15th)…The Broncos 566 points scored is the most in school history…WMU is the first team in MAC history to win their conference games by more than 14 points…QB Zach Terrell and WR Corey Davis have combined for 50 touchdowns second most in FBS history…Head coach PJ Fleck was named MAC Coach of the Year…Davis was named MAC Offensive Player of the year…Terrell goes into his final collegiate game with 11,947 passing yards second in MAC history and his 95 touchdowns first all-time…Jarvion Franklin has 24 rushing touchdowns so far this season and 41 for his career (WMU record)…Broncos had 14 all-MAC selections including four on the first team
THE SERIES: The game is the fifth lifetime in the series between the two schools with the Broncos holding a 3-1 advantage…..The previous four have been played at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison including the last back in 2000, 31-7 …WMU’s only win in the series came in 1988 24-14…This is the first time the two will meet in a bowl game.
LAST TIME OUT: The Badgers last played on December 3, losing to the Penn State Nittany Lions 38-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Wisconsin squandered a 28-14 as the passing of Trace McSorley and the running Saquon Barkley fueled the Lions comeback. Wisconsin RB Corey Clement rushed for 164 yards on 23 carries including a 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. QB Bart Houston completed 16-of-21 passes for 174 yardfs, while Jazz Peavy had four receptions for 33 yards.
ON THE SEASON: The Badgers opened the season with a thrilling 16-14 win over LSU at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. After routing Akron 50-14, they survived a major scare from Georgia State before winning late, 23-17.
They opened Big Ten play with a dominating 30-6 win at Michigan State before losing two straight. The first setback was a defensive battle, 14-7, at Michigan. The next was at home to Ohio State, 30-23, in overtime -- a game Wisconsin had the lead for a majority of the contest. From that point on, the Badgers steam-rolled through the opposition with wins over Iowa. Nebraska, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota (to clinch the west) before losing to PSU.
OFFENSE: Wisconsin is averaging 28.7 points and 383.7 yards per game
RUSHING: Corey Clement 292 carries – 1304 yards 14 touchdowns
PASSING: Bart Houston 85-179-3 1086 yds. five touchdowns
RECEIVING: Jazz Peavy 43 receptions – 635 yards five touchdowns
DEFENSE: The Bobcats are allowing 15.5 points and 303 yards per game
TACKLES: T.J. Edwards (44-35-79)
TACKLES FOR LOSSES: T. J. Watt 10.5 – 74 yards
SACKS: Watt 10-62
INTERCEPTIONS: Leo Musso 5-16
PUNTING: Anthony Lotti 46-37.5 yds. per kick
PLACE KICKING: Andrew Endicott 68 pts (12-18 FG/32-34 PAT)
PUNT RETURNS: Jazz Peavy 17-5.8 yds. per return
KICK RETURNS: Natrell Jamerson 12-21.1 avg. yds. per return
BADGERS NOTES: Wisconsin will be playing in its 15th consecutive bowl game..It is the first NY6/BCS game for Wisconsin outside of the Rose Bowl (sixth overall) and their first ever visit to the Cotton Bowl game….UW has played in AT&T Stadium before, losing to Alabama in the 2015 Advocare Classic, while the men’s basketball team played in the 2014 Final Four there, defeating previously undefeated Kentucky in the national semi-final before losing to Duke in the Championship game…The Badgers are 17-4 in their last 21 games dating back to last season…Western Michigan is the seventh ranked opponent the Badgers will face in 2016.
NATIONAL RANKINGS: Both teams finished in the top-20 in all three major College Football Polls (AP-Writers, Amway-Coaches, and the College Football Playoff) WMU was 12th-14-and 8th respectively while Wisconsin was eighth in all three
MAC vs. BIG TEN: The game marks the fifth time in history the MAC will play a Big Ten opponent in a Bowl game (first in the New Year’s Six/BCS era). The conference has a 1-3 lifetime record against the Big Ten, with the only victory coming by Bowling Green in the 2003 Motor City Bowl, defeating Northwestern 28-24
THE GROUP OF FIVE: Since the advent of the College Football Playoff after the 2014 season, Western Michigan is the first Mid-American Conference team to come out of the “Group of Five” conferences to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl, Other Group of Five participants were Boise State (Mountain West-2014) and Houston (Conference USA-2015) with both of those teams winning (BSU over Arizona State in the Orange Bowl and Houston over Florida State in the Peach Bowl)