Five things to know about the Wisconsin Badgers, who will face OSU in Guaranteed Rate Bowl

STILLWATER — For the second straight year, Oklahoma State will go to Phoenix for bowl season to face a team it has never played that is going through a coaching change.

This year, it’s Wisconsin in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, set for 9:15 p.m. on Dec. 27 at Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.

Last year, it was Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl as the Irish were transitioning from Brian Kelly to Marcus Freeman as head coach.

Wisconsin fired former coach Paul Chryst on Oct. 2 and have hired Luke Fickell away from Cincinnati for next season, though Jim Leonhard has served as interim coach for the Badgers.

This is the only non-playoff bowl game to pit a Big 12 team against a Big Ten team.

Here are five things to know about the Cowboys’ bowl opponent.

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Wisconsin head coach Jim Leonhard talks with Wisconsin wide receiver Keontez Lewis (3) during the first quarter of their game against Minnesota Saturday, November 26, 2022 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.
Wisconsin head coach Jim Leonhard talks with Wisconsin wide receiver Keontez Lewis (3) during the first quarter of their game against Minnesota Saturday, November 26, 2022 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.

Who is Wisconsin's coach?

Leonhard served as the interim coach for the final seven games of the season and is reportedly staying with the program in some form on Fickell’s staff. Leonhard will be in the head coaching role for the bowl game, but Fickell will be involved in some way as well.

“I’ll be coaching in some way, shape or form,” Fickell told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after being hired in late November. "We’ll figure out what that means, if I’m coaching the punters or I’m coaching the nose guards. I’m going to be around these guys. I’m going to have the ability to get to know them so I can build that trust, respect and love that I think is so critical for our future.”

Chryst, a Wisconsin quarterback from 1986-88, was named the Badgers’ head coach for the 2015 season. He was dismissed after a 2-3 start this season but finished his career 67-26 overall and 43-18 in Big Ten play.

Fickell comes to Wisconsin after going 62-24 over six seasons at Cincinnati.

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Middle of the Big Ten pack

Wisconsin finished the regular season seventh out of 14 teams in the Big Ten in points per game and points per game allowed.

The Badgers scored 26.5 points per game and allowed 20.5 per game this season. They scored 38 points or more three times in the first six games but more than 28 only once in the final six. The final three weeks of the season, the Badgers failed to score more than 16 points in any game.

To combat the struggling offense, the Wisconsin defense responded by holding the final five opponents to 24 or fewer points.

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Coming for the quarterback

Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig reacts after sacking Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras on Nov. 12 in Iowa City.
Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig reacts after sacking Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras on Nov. 12 in Iowa City.

One of the biggest struggles for OSU this season has been its offensive line, and Wisconsin will put pressure on the Cowboys' blockers.

Wisconsin’s Nick Herbig led the Big Ten in sacks with 11. Overall, the Badgers were fourth in the defense-heavy Big Ten with 31.

Adding to the difficulty for OSU’s offense, Wisconsin is third in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed, giving up 103.1 per game. Herbig also led the league in tackles for loss with 15½.

The Cowboys were ninth in the Big 12 with 131.8 rushing yards per game.

Wisconsin defensive back John Torchio had five interceptions on the season, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

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Balanced offense

While Wisconsin was more focused on running the ball, its offensive numbers were fairly balanced.

The Badgers are averaging 173.3 rushing yards per game and 189.5 passing yards per game, though they were near the bottom of the Big Ten in pass attempts, going to the air only 300 times over 12 games.

Conversely, Wisconsin rushed the ball 454 times, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Braelon Allen was one of just four Big Ten rushers to surpass the 1,000-yard mark, going for 1,126 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

Quarterback Graham Mertz, who announced Sunday his intention to transfer, completed 57.3% of his passes for 2,136 yards with 19 touchdowns and had 10 interceptions.

The Badgers’ top receiver, Chimere Dike, caught 44 passes for 653 yards and six touchdowns.

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Guaranteed Rate Bowl history

While OSU has played in this bowl twice — defeating Indiana in 2007 and Washington in 2015 — Wisconsin made just one appearance, defeating Utah 38-10 in 1996.

The bowl has been in existence since 1989, beginning as the Copper Bowl. It has also been called the Insight.com Bowl, Insight Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Cactus Bowl and Cheez-It Bowl before adopting the current name in 2020.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OSU vs. Wisconsin football: What to know about Guaranteed Rate Bowl