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Wisconsin football team set to play LSU and standout QB Jayden Daniels in the ReliaQuest Bowl

MADISON – Luke Fickell and his players are heading to Tampa – to face a team from the powerful SEC.

Wisconsin officials on Sunday accepted an invitation to play in the ReliaQuest Bowl (formerly Outback Bowl), set for 11 a.m. on Jan. 1.

The Badgers (7-5) are set to face No. 13 LSU (9-3), which is led by Heisman candidate Jayden Daniels, arguably the top quarterback in the nation.

"We’ve had our ups and downs," Fickell said from the road Sunday during a Zoom call. "Ultimately, we were in a position to have an opportunity to play a great LSU team."

It is unclear if Daniels will even play in the game or sit out to prepare for the 2024 NFL draft.

But what is certain is that the senior has been fabulous this season.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels is one of the top candidates to win the Heisman Trophy this season.
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels is one of the top candidates to win the Heisman Trophy this season.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels put up amazing numbers this season

Daniels was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week five times. He leads the nation in total offense (412.2 ypg), passing touchdowns (40), touchdowns responsible for (50) and rushing yards for a quarterback (1,134).

He has completed 236 of 327 passes (72.1%) for 3,812 yards. He has 40 touchdown passes and only four interceptions and TDs and only four interceptions and leads the nation in pass efficiency with a 208.0 rating. He is No. 3 in the nation total passing yards and passing yards per game (317.7).

Only two SEC players have passed or at least 3,500 yards and rushed for at least 1,000 in a single season. Daniels and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.

Only four other SEC players have accounted for at least 50 touchdowns in a season – Joe Burrow of LSU (63), Tim Tebow of Florida (55), Cam Newton of Auburn (51) and Bryce Young of Alabama (50).

Daniels has been responsible for at least four touchdowns in nine games this season. The highlight came the Tigers' 56-14 victory over Georgia State, when Daniels passed for six touchdowns and ran for two more.

He had at least 400 yards of total offense in Daniels in six games this season. That includes an SEC record 606 yards in at 52-35 victory over Florida. Daniels passed for 372 yards and rushed for 234 in that game, becoming the first player in FBS history to rush for at least 200 yards and pass for at least 350 yards in a game.

"His numbers are unbelievable," UW junior safety Hunter Wohler said.

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As a result, LSU leads the nation in total offense (547.8 ypg) and scoring (46.4 ppg). The Tigers are the only team in the nation to average at least 300 passing yards and at least 200 rushing yards per game.

UW faced Daniels in the 2021 Las Vegas Bowl when Daniels played for Arizona State.

Daniels completed 11 of 21 passes for 159 yards and rushed 19 times for 40 yards but was sacked five times and threw one interception in UW's 20-14 victory.

"His athleticism is unbelievable," Wohler said. "The challenge they’re going to pose is just the explosiveness, the big-play ability and the ability to make something out of nothing and score quick."

Braelon Allen won't play in Wisconsin's bowl game vs. LSU

Wohler and senior tight end Hayden Rucci acknowledged Sunday they still haven't decided whether they will return to UW next season.

Tailback Braelon Allen, who recently announced he is entering the 2024 NFL draft, isn't playing in the bowl game.

Fickell said he should have a better idea soon whether any other players will opt out of the bowl game.

"There will be some conversations that we have to have and try to find out in the next week who we’re going to have," Fickell said. "I think the matchup, the opportunity to go to Tampa, gives us a greater excitement. I would hope and believe that what we’ve done here and what Wisconsin has been that we will have a majority of our team.

"But again, it is a new age. It is a new time. Like I’ve been talking with Hunter Wohler. We’ll find out who is with us to continue to move forward and that’s who we’ll go with."

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Hunter Wohler 'can't wait' to face a team the caliber of LSU

Wohler acknowledged he didn't anticipate UW, after a 7-5 finish in the regular season, would be paired against at top-15 team.

"I did not see us getting the opportunity to play a team of that caliber with our struggles this year," he said. "But now we get the chance and I can’t wait. It is a talented group, a lot of really good athletes on that team.

"We’ve got some good athletes of our own, so it’s going to be fun. It is going to be a good test of how well we train, how well we prepare and ultimately how well we compete."

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Badgers football faces LSU in ReliaQuest Bowl Jan. 1, 2024