Can the Wisconsin Badgers pull off the ultimate upset in Pasadena?


Big Ten Championship - Nebraska v Wisconsin

Story-lines run thick in the 99th installment of the Rose Bowl between the #8 Stanford Cardinal and Wisconsin Badgers.

The Badgers are playing in their third straight Rose Bowl and look to hall-of-fame coach Barry Alvarez to improve upon his perfect 3-0 record in Pasasdena.

Stanford enters the game on a three-game streak in BCS Bowls (Fiesta in 2011 and Orange in 2010) as well and is perhaps one of the hottest teams in the country with their last four wins coming against ranked opponents.

David Shaw Rose Bowl

#8 Stanford Cardinal (11-2) Analysis: Does Stanford deserve better than a five-loss Badgers team? Probably, but what makes this match-up so intriguing are the numerous parallels between the two programs. Both are predicated on a strong running game and underrated defense.

The Cardinal defense is so much more than underrated as they have the best pass-rush in the country and the 3rd ranked rushing defense. The Badgers have faced some good defenses (Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State), but nothing ferocious and rounded as the Cardinal defense. Everyone knows the Badgers are going to run the ball, but it will be how Stanford reacts to their occasional pass that makes the difference. Stanford’s Trent Murphy, Chase Thomas and Ben Gardner have combined for 25 sacks on the year.

Ring the bell if you’ve heard this one before; the Stanford offense is one that has an exceptional offensive line and limits their mistakes from the quarterback position by consistently running the ball. Running Back Stepfan Taylor had an exceptional year with 1,442 yards and helped keep the heat off a quarterback change from Josh Nunes to Kevin Hogan. The quarterback situation was very similar to the one for the Badgers in neither Nunes and Hogan stood out as the best guy. Hogan seems like the most conservative option as he threw only three interceptions in big games for the Cardinal.

Wisconsin Badgers (8-5) Analysis: Take it or leave it, but you have to believe that the coaching change drama will take a bit of edge of a Badgers team who blew the doors off Nebraska with a 70-31 win in the Big Ten Championship Game. Gary Andersen is a good hire and Bret Bielema had his reasons to leave, yet turnover from a good team is almost never a positive thing  in the short-term.

The Badgers ended the season with the 11th best rushing attack and arguably was better than that in the second half of the season. The three-headed monster of Montee Ball (1,730 yards), James White (802 yards) and Melvin Gordon (502 yards) is the  best in the country. The key for the Badgers will be Curt Phillips using the poise under pressure he used in the fourth quarters of the Michigan State/Ohio State/Penn State games to take them to overtime.

There’s not many aspects that Wisconsin’s defense struggles in besides the fact that they force a small amount of turnovers. Don’t expect that to change much against a Stanford team who emphasizes taking care of the ball. Still, the Badgers defense can cause efficient offenses to become stagnant due to a solid secondary/defensive line and great linebackers. Mike Taylor, Chris Borland and Ethan Armstrong have all the intangibles to make plays and are the leaders of a defense who were top 20 against both the pass and run.

Prediction: Stanford 24 Wisconsin 14

The timing of Bielema’s departure and the mass-job search for the assistants is a killer for the Badgers in my opinion. It couldn’t have been a worse opponent for the Badgers in a preparation aspect as head coach David Shaw will surely have Stanford ready to roll down the coast to Pasadena. Also from a x’s and o’s standpoint, Stanford’s rush-defense strength is set to neutralize Wisconsin’s biggest strength on the offensive end. I haven’t seen near enough from UW’s passing game to think they can turn it around at the Rose Bowl. Expect this game to be a close one until Stanford grabs a lead early in the second half and holds onto it with a stifling defense.

TV Coverage: ESPN at 4:10 PM CT with Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst) and Heather Cox/Tom Rinaldi on the sidelines.

Betting Lines: Stanford favored by 6.5 points and over/under set at 47.5 points.

2012 Record straight up: 10-3

2012 Record against the spread: 5-7

2012 Record in over/under: 9-3

*No betting line for Badgers march-up with Northern Iowa

What do you think will result from the Badgers and Stanford meeting on New Years Day? Let me know by commenting below.

Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at grays@uwalumni.com.

Pictures:

Wisconsin 3Peat (sbnation.com)

David Shaw Roses (gamedayr.com)

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