For the second consecutive year, the Wisconsin Badgers find themselves representing the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. However, this time around, they get a Pac-12 powerhouse in Oregon instead of a pesky TCU squad who proved to be too much in an upset in Pasadena.
The battle between the Badgers (11-2) and Ducks (11-2) is one of the most intriguing match-ups of the bowl season, particularly because the two teams are so much alike. The game will feature two of the most potent offenses in the country and both teams seem to be playing their best football right now.
WISC Analysis: Unlike last season, the nation is well aware of how the Badgers have ended up where they are. It all started with NC-State transfer QB Russell Wilson who took college football by storm and emerged as an early Heisman candidate. After a couple of gut-wrenching losses at Michigan State and Ohio State, the Badgers were derailed off their BCS bowl track and were forced to turn back to what they know best, running the ball.
The Badgers would go on to win their next five games and Montee Ball eclipsed Wilson as the Heisman candidate by challenging Barry Sanders’ NCAA Record with 38 total touchdowns. Ball finished third in Heisman voting and should break Sanders’ record with a couple of scores in the Rose Bowl.
During the season, the Badgers averaged 466.9 yards per game and put up an eye-popping 44.6 points per game. What makes those numbers much more impressive is the fact that the Badgers not only endured a gauntlet of formidable defenses in the Big Ten, but simply shredded them.
Now awaits an Oregon Ducks team who in comparison put up 515.2 yards per game and 46.2 points per game. If there isn’t an explosion of offense in this game, I’m not sure what will happen. Nonetheless, let’s examine how the Badgers win and lose the 98th edition of the Rose Bowl.
Why the Badgers Could Win: Despite everything I just said, the Badgers best chance at beating the Ducks is to slow the game down. Wisconsin has the clear advantage on the offensive line (outweighs most NFL units) and the experience of relying heavily on the Heisman finalist in Ball. Head Coach Bret Bielema should take a page out of basketball coach Bo Ryan’s playbook and make sure Oregon does not have the opportunity to run up and down the field. The Badgers defense is far from elite, but has the ability to force turnovers with an above average linebacker group headed by Chris Borland and Mike Taylor. If the Badgers keep the Ducks under 30 points, I think they will win.
Why the Badgers Could Lose: The Ducks are no slouch and have a track record for stopping great offenses. Eventhough they lost in the National Championship last season, they did a great job of slowing down Cam Newton and the Auburn offense. They also put forth a valiant effort in their loss to LSU this season. I think there is one thing we can all agree on and that’s the fact that Oregon has speed. Any team with speed as their strength is dangerous. The Badgers should be particularly worried about RB LaMichael James and kick returner De’Anthony Thomas (“Black Mamba”) who I wouldn’t bet against to both find the end-zone versus Wisconsin.
Synopsis: I expect this game to start out on the slow-end (good for the Badgers), but eventually turn into a shoot-out favoring the Ducks. What does that mean for an outcome, a damn good and close game in my opinion. The Badgers’ Wilson will do what he’s done all year and make a huge play in the 4th quarter while the Badgers defense also makes a crucial stop on their way to a Rose Bowl win.
Wisconsin 31 Oregon 28
What do you think will happen in the Rose Bowl? Will it be high-scoring like most people think it will be? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.
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