Wisconsin vs Stanford – Rose Bowl
Wisconsin (8-5) takes on Stanford (11-2) on New Year’s Day in the most storied bowl game college football offers. The “Granddaddy of Them All” features a match-up of two teams who mirror each other in all aspects including uniform colors. Both teams sport big offensive and defensive lines, run a pro-style, run-first offense and love to play smash-mouth football.
Turmoil ruled the early part of the season as the offensive line had a horrific start which led to the firing of the first year offensive line coach after following week three of the season. Starting quarterback Danny O’Brien who transferred from Maryland was ineffective and replaced by freshman Joel Stave who was able to get the offense on track only to break his collarbone midway through the season. Enter fifth year senior Curt Phillips who was able to rally the team and manage the offense en route to a third straight Big Ten title.
It’s been an incredibly strange season for Wisconsin. The Badgers have 5 losses, most of any team to ever play in the Rose Bowl; but those five losses were either in overtime or by 3 points. Three quarterbacks have started for Wisconsin, and the one who was at the helm when the Badgers put up 70 points against Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game may not even start the Rose Bowl as Joel Stave has been cleared to play. And after it was all said and done, head coach Bret Bielema decided Madison was not good enough for him and moved on to Arkansas. Now Wisconsin turns to “The Godfather of Wisconsin Football” as Barry Alvarez will return to the sidelines one last time to coach in the Rose Bowl.
While Stanford cannot top the story lines of a roller coaster season endured by Wisconsin, they certainly have proven they are one of the best teams in the country. The Cardinal have won seven in a row since a controversial loss at Notre Dame and on the season have beaten five ranked teams – including a win at #2 Oregon, holding the Ducks vaunted offense to a meager 14 points. A year after Andrew Luck had Stanford’s aerial attack punishing opponents, it has been the team’s defense that has led the way this season. The Cardinal come in with the third ranked rushing defense in the country, something that will surely come in handy against a Wisconsin team that ranks 12th in the nation in rushing.
What will happen: This could be one of the best games of the bowl season. Both teams look to impose their will on opponents and the team that wins the battle of the trenches most likely wins the game. Stanford may have a slightly better defense than Wisconsin but otherwise these two teams are very even. After finally opening up the offensive playbook in the Big Ten title game and now getting QB Joel Stave back, the Badgers seem to be peaking at the right time. With the experience of having played in the Rose Bowl the past two seasons along with a veteran coach on the sidelines who has won the Rose Bowl three times, Wisconsin will edge Stanford in a well-played game.
Prediction: Wisconsin 20 Stanford 17
The Play: Wisconsin +6
Bowl Game ATS Record: 2-2
YTD Record: 20-16