Well, Gamedayr Nation, the 2012 regular season has officially come to a close. In order to fill the gaping college football void left behind as we wait for our favorite team to play in some meaningless bowl (unless your Alabama or Notre Dame), we will begin our game-by-game preview of the most intriguing games of the 2012-2013 college football bowl season. Starting with the Rose Bowl, the Gamedayr Statistics department breaks down each team to determine who will come out victorious.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin Badgers vs. #6 Stanford Cardinal
After a disappointing 8-5 season, save for the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl birth, Wisconin lost their head coach, Bret Bielema, to Arkansas. The Badgers will be coached in the bowl game by athletic director and legendary former head coach, Barry Alvarez. In each of the team’s six losses, Wisconsin has been within three points of their opponent at the end of the fourth quarter, including an overtime loss to undefeated Ohio State. However, as close as the losses were, the Badgers only earned a spot in the Rose Bowl due to the fact that Penn State and Ohio State were prohibited from postseason play due to NCAA sanctions; both finished ahead of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Leaders division.
Stanford has quieted many doubters who did not believe they could repeat their recent success without Andrew Luck. In the biggest game of the season, the Cardinal proved that they could win without their great quarterback by beating then-No. 2 Oregon in overtime. They also strolled into South Bend and took No. 1 Notre Dame into overtime, before eventually losing a heartbreaker.
These two teams play very similar styles of football, as both want to pound the ball up the middle with their NFL-ready, bulldozing running backs. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball racked up 1,730 yards (5.2 yards per carry) on the season. He also rushed for 21 touchdowns, on his way to setting the NCAA all-time record with 82 career touchdowns (rushing and receiving). Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor rushed for 1,442 yards (4.8 yards per carry) on the season. The difference between the two backs may come at the goal line, where Ball is as good as anyone at punching it into the end zone. On the other side, Taylor scored just 12 touchdowns on the year, none of which came in his two biggest games against Notre Dame and Oregon.
The two teams are also fairly similar at the quarterback position. Wisconsin lost starter Russell Wilson to the NFL, just as Stanford lost Luck, and both are currently leading their professional teams to winning records as they compete with Robert Griffin III for the NFL rookie of the year award. Stanford will trot out freshman Kevin Hogan, who has played well in place of Josh Nunes since taking over the starting job in week 10. Wisconsin is in more dire straits under center, as the quarterback du jour will be Curt Phillips. Phillips has played in just four games this season, and has thrown more than eight passes in a game only twice in his career. The badgers clearly are a run first team, and the unbalanced offense could come back to haunt them against a great Stanford defense.
Stanford is 14th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 17.5 points per game. And they’re doing it in the Pac 12, a conference that boasts some of the best offenses in the nation (outside of the Big 12). This is a Cardinal defense that held Oregon to just fourteen points in a win on the Ducks’ home field. For comparison, Oregon scored at least 42 points in every other game this season. The Ducks averaged 323.3 rush yards per game, but managed just 198 yards on the ground against Stanford.
The Badger defense is not to be over looked either. Wisconsin is 19th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 19.1 points per game. The undefeated Buckeyes averaged 37.2 points per game, but managed just 14 points in four quarters against Wisconsin.
Both teams play a similar brand of football, but Stanford plays it a little bit better. The Stanford defense should be able to scheme against the one-dimensional Wisconsin offense. They will load the box to stop the run, and force Phillips to make plays with his arm. If he can do that, then Wisconsin could shock the college football world. However, he has not proven himself yet, and the play callers will have to show some trust in him if they are going to put up big points on this Stanford defense.
On the other side of the ball, Hogans has looked just as shaky as Phillips, so Wisconsin should stuff the run and make Stanford pass the ball as well. Hogans will have to rely on his safety valve over the middle, tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz is likely a first round NFL draft pick, and a matchup nightmare for linebackers in pass coverage. This game will be decided by quarterback play, and Hogans has the advantage over Phillips, especially with a great tight end for the young quarterback to rely on. Expect a boring game with a ton of rushes, good defense, a lot of blitzing, and not too many throws deep down the field.
Stanford 27, Wisconsin 17
Who do you think will win? Let us know in the comments below.
Statistics and Information from ESPN.com were used in this article.
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