Continuing his 2012 bowl previews, Joe Healy previews the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio.
The Grandaddy of Them All. It doesn’t matter how watered down the bowl system gets or how the way a champion is determined changes, the Rose Bowl is always going to feel special.
There are just so many unique things about the game. There’s the Rose Parade that morning. There’s the fact that it’s one of the few bowl games that has always occurred on the same day. And even more amazing, there’s the fact that it comes on at the exact same time every year. Even though he has been retired for a few years now, I can still hear Keith Jackson’s call of “Whoa Nelly!” in my head every time I think of Rose Bowls past.
It’s fitting that the Rose Bowl Game makes me think of great games in college football history because this year’s game will be a throwback game.
The Big Ten team, Wisconsin, is everything that a Big Ten team is supposed to be.
Most notably, they feature a smash-mouth offense led by a hulking offensive line and a workhorse running back. Montee Ball capped a record-setting career with a 1,730 yard season. He didn’t match 2011′s 33 touchdown input, but his 21 touchdown season isn’t too shabby.
His backup, James White, had a season that many starting running backs would like to have. He is sitting on 802 yards and 12 touchdowns. Two Wisconsin quarterbacks combined to throw for a little over 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns, but that paltry production isn’t a big deal when you have such a potent running game.
The Badgers can also check off the second item on the list, a stout, physical defense. As a team, the Badgers allow opposing offenses to average just 19.1 points per game. Leading the way is linebacker leads the team with 120 tackles and 15 tackles for loss. Teammate Chris Borland contributed 95 tackles, ten tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Staying focused will have to be a priority for the Badgers leading up to the game because their time between the Big Ten championship game and now has been a bit eventful, as Bret Bielema announced that he was leaving Madison to become the head coach at Arkansas.
Historically, the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) team has been a more fast-paced, high scoring team compared to their Big Ten counterpart, but that’s not necessarily the case here. Stanford has a run-based offense and a physical defense that would make any Big Ten team proud.
The Cardinal defense ranks 13th in the nation in scoring defense with an average of 17.5 points against per game. Linebacker Shayne Skov is the undisputed leader of the defense. He leads the team with 73 tackles but what he brings to this team as its emotional leader goes far behind stats.
Statistically speaking, Trent Murphy led this defense. The junior from Arizona led the team with 18 tackles for loss and ten sacks.
On offense, things clearly run through running back Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns. But the real key to this team’s success late in the season was the quarterback play they got from Kevin Hogan once they turned the offense over to him.
On the way to leading the Cardinals to their biggest wins of the season against Oregon and UCLA, Hogan completed over 72% of his passes and kept his turnovers to a minimum. When you have a good running game and an elite defense like Stanford does, that’s all you need a quarterback to do.
If you’re a football purist, this is going to be a treat for you. There will be a ton of yards gained on the ground and there will be even more big hits. Smart money is with Stanford here. They do everything that Wisconsin does, but they just do it a little bit better.