For the third consecutive season, Wisconsin make it into the Rose Bowl. This time, with a temporary head coach on the sidelines who has won it three times in the past, maybe it’ll workout. Stanford go into the game as the Pac-12 champions, a huge November backing them up and one of the best defenses in the nation.
Barry Alvarez stepped down as Wisconsin coach in 2005 after coaching Wisconsin for 16 seasons and winning the Rose Bowl three times during the 1990’s, including once against Stanford. He replaced the man who replaced him, Brett Bielema, who took the offer from Arkansas.
It was a disappointing season for Wisconsin, despite Montee Ball, sturggling to cope with their losses to the NFL Draft, especially Russell Wilson. All that changed when they torched Nebraska for 539 yards on the ground, as both Ball and Melvin Gordon ran for over 200 yards. Ball has 1730 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, entering his final game as a College Football player. He’s the all-time FBS leader in rushing touchdowns (76) and total TDs (82).
While Wisconsin’s running game is one of the best in the nation, Stanford are third when it comes to run defense, allowing 87.7 yards per game. Since Keith Hogan took over for Josh Nunes, things have been looking better for the 11-2 Cardinal, starting in the wins over Colorado, Oregon State, Oregon and twice against UCLA. Hogan’s main job is letting Stepfan Taylor do his work in the running game, but on his worst day so far he’s completed 68.2% of his passes, and also has the ability to take off on the ground if necessary.
Three of Stanford’s last four victories came by four points or fewer, and it had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat UCLA 27-24 in the Pac-12 championship game. They haven’t won the Rose Bowl since 1972, and they haven’t been to the venue since losing to Wisconsin there in 2000.
Prediction – Both teams pound the ball on the ground, but Stanford have handled and won against tougher offenses than what Wisconsin have to offer. Unlike the previous Rose Bowl, this should be a lower scoring affair, which will probably be going to Stanford.