Another trip to Pasadena and another loss to a great team at the Rose Bowl.
Stanford came into the game as one of the best-rounded teams in the country and left with a 20-14 win.
To get there, the Cardinal had to fight off a tough Wisconsin Badgers team who despite five losses proved they can stick with one anyone in the country.
What It Means: First and foremost, the courageous play of the Badgers along with Michigan (loss to South Carolina) and Nebraska (loss to Georgia) proved that the Big Ten was no joke this season. In what was considered by many to be a “down-year,” the Big Ten took three of the best teams in the country to the wire. From the Badgers perspective, the loss in a third-straight Rose Bowl marks the beginning to an end. It was an era in which Wisconsin won three straight conference titles, but couldn’t get to the next level. Now they turn to a new head coach in Gary Andersen and try to continue the success while winning bowl games.
Player of the Game: RB Montee Ball (24 carries for 100 yards and one touchdown)
What Ball did in the first half was so important to the Badgers making it a hard-fought loss. With Stanford going up 14-0 early, Ball’s hard-nosed running slowed down the pace of game. His 87 yards in the first half was near what the Cardinal’s number one rush-defense allows opponents in entire games.
Ball will go down as one of the greatest Badgers of all-time, but I don’t think he will surpass Ron Dayne because he didn’t win a Rose Bowl.
Highlight of the Game: Ball’s 11 yard touchdown in the second quarter was one of beauty. What has him rising up draft charts is his vastly improved jump-cuts and vision of the field. Taking a hand-off from quarterback Curt Phillips, Ball used a perfect jump-cut to the left and utilized a nice tight-end block to burst into the end-zone for his 83rd career score.
Stat of the Game (3): The number of Rose Bowls Montee Ball has scored a touchdown in. The only player in Rose Bowl history to do so.
What’s Next: It’s going to be a very interesting off-season as the Badgers shift from Bret Bielema to Andersen. Bielema always said that the 2013 team would the most talented in his tenure, so it should be a great barometer for Andersen’s coaching ability. With a top-25 team and a weak Leaders Division, no reason to think the Badgers don’t end up in a New Year’s Bowl game once again.
What did you think of the Badgers loss in the Rose Bowl? 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictures courtesy of ESPN.