Rose Bowl Game Preview
Dec. 30, 2012
Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 • 5:10 p.m. ET • Pasadena, Calif. • Rose Bowl Stadium (91,000)
After winning its second consecutive Big Ten Football Championship Game, Wisconsin (8-5) heads back to Pasadena, Calif., for the Rose Bowl Game for the third straight season, where the Badgers will face Stanford (11-2) on Jan. 1 at 5:10 p.m. ET on ESPN. Wisconsin becomes the first Big Ten team to go to three straight Rose Bowl Games since Michigan went to Pasadena following the 1976-78 campaigns. The Badgers are undefeated against Stanford, owning a 4-0-1 mark against the Cardinal, including a 17-9 victory in the 2000 Rose Bowl Game. All-time, the Badgers are 6-4 against current members of the Pac-12 Conference in bowl games, including a 3-4 mark in the Rose Bowl.
This season’s edition of the Rose Bowl Game will have a nostalgic feel for the Badger faithful as former head coach and current UW athletics director Barry Alvarez will return to the sidelines as interim head coach. Alvarez, a Rose Bowl Hall of Famer and the winningest coach in college football bowl history at 8-2 (.727), will look to extend his undefeated Rose Bowl mark to 4-0 after earning wins as Wisconsin’s head man in the 1994, 1999 and 2000 Rose Bowl Games. Should he accomplish the feat, he would tie former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes (4) for the most wins by a Big Ten coach in “The Granddaddy of Them All.” In all, Alvarez amassed a 118-73-4 (.615) record from 1990 to 2005, with Big Ten titles in 1993, 1998 and 1999. Wisconsin’s five Rose Bowl trips in the BCS era match USC for the most appearances in Pasadena by any team since 1998.
The Cardinal is making its fourth all-time BCS bowl appearance, which is tied for 12th best among FBS schools in the BCS era. Stanford’s active three-game BCS streak is matched only by Oregon and Wisconsin. Speaking of streaks, Stanford has won seven straight games, which is the fourth-longest overall winning streak in the country. The Cardinal’s three straight 11-win seasons are unprecedented in school history. Stanford had never won 11 games prior to 2010 and had reached 10 wins only three times previously (1926, 1942 and 1992).
Wisconsin’s offense currently ranks third in the Big Ten in rushing (237.8), fourth in scoring (30.8), sixth in total yards (400.4), and 12th in passing (162.6). It is no secret that the Badgers have found success this season through a dominant ground game. Montee Ball and James White have combined for 2,532 rushing yards this season. Since Oct. 1, UW is averaging 307.9 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth nationally during the span, and managed to put up 539 rushing yards against Nebraska in the Big Ten Football Championship Game. The team also scored 70 points in the game, which marked the second-largest scoring output in school history. Wisconsin has scored 60-plus points six times over the past three seasons. High-scoring games have often been thanks in large part to Ball. The Doak Walker Award winner is the NCAA’s all-time leader in touchdowns with 82 for his career. He is just the fifth player in conference history to rush for more than 5,000 yards (5,040) and is the only player in the country to eclipse 1,500 rushing yards each of the last two seasons. Ball has run for 1,730 yards this year after rushing for 1,923 in 2011. In terms of Rose Bowl performances, Ball needs 150 yards to match the Rose Bowl career record of 446 rushing yards set by former Badgers RB Ron Dayne. Ball has rushed for 296 yards in his two career Rose Bowl appearances, an average of 148.0 yards per game. What has not necessarily been a constant over the years is the Badger directing the offense. UW is the first team to play in three consecutive BCS bowl games and use three different starting quarterbacks. Scott Tolzien started the 2011 Rose Bowl, with Russell Wilson the starter in 2012 and Curt Phillips listed as UW’s starter this year. And unlike the first two, Phillips was not the main man until late this year. In fact, Wisconsin is one of nine schools to have started at least three different quarterbacks this season, as Danny O’Brien, Joel Stave and Curt Phillips have all started games for UW. Through six games, Phillips is 36-of-65 passing for 457 yards, four touchdowns and one pick. Luckily, Phillips has Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen to turn to in the passing game. Abbrederis ranked third in the Big Ten with 66.1 receiving yards per game, including an impressive 17.2 yards-per-catch average. Pedersen, the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year, has four TD receptions this season, which are the second-most by a B1G tight end.
Stanford topped the Pac-12 in scoring defense (17.5), total yards allowed (338.9) and rushing defense (87.7) this year, while ranking eighth against the pass (251.2). The Cardinal rushing defense also ranked third in the nation, with just 2.84 yards allowed per carry. Wisconsin’s Ball averages 5.2 yards every touch. Twelve of Stanford’s last 18 opponents have been held under 100 yards rushing, including eight of 13 games in 2012. The Cardinal 3-4 defense is first in the nation with 4.31 sacks and 9.23 tackles for loss each time out. Four Stanford standouts currently rank in the Pac-12’s top-15 in tackles for loss, including senior linebacker Trent Murphy (18.0) senior defensive end Ben Gardner (14.5), fifth-year senior linebacker Chase Thomas (14.5), and junior defensive end Henry Anderson (13.0). Stanford defenders have also snared 14 interceptions this season, led by junior free safety Ed Reynolds (6) and sophomore strong safety Jordan Richards (3). Reynolds has returned a school-record three of his interceptions for touchdowns, which ties him for the NCAA lead. In addition, his 301 total interception return yards ranks first in the nation this season and is one yard shy of the NCAA record.
Stanford’s offense rates sixth in the Pac-12 in rushing (173.3), seventh in scoring (28.5), eighth in total yards (376.8), and 10th in passing (203.5). In a similar fashion to Wisconsin, the Cardinal boasts a dominant running back and underwent a QB change earlier this year. Senior Stepfan Taylor, a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award that Ball ended up winning, is Stanford’s all-time career rushing leader with 4,212 yards. With 1,442 markers this season, Taylor has recorded his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season – a feat never previously accomplished at Stanford. In addition, his 823 career carries ranks third in the NCAA among active rushers and first all-time in program history. He currently ranks fourth among conference rushers at 110.9 yards per game. After senior Josh Nunes started the first nine games (7-2) under center, sophomore slinger Kevin Hogan made his starting debut on Nov. 10 during a four-game conference winning streak. Since then, Hogan has gone 4-0, all against ranked opponents, and was named the MVP of the 2012 Pac-12 Football Championship Game. Stanford’s tight end tandem of Zach Ertz (66 rec., 837 yds, 6 TDs) and Levine Toilolo (24 rec., 393 yds, 4 TDs) has combined to catch 90 passes for 1,230 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Either Ertz or Toilolo has led Stanford in receiving in 10 of 13 games this season.
Wisconsin ranks 13th nationally in total defense (320.9), is tied for 19th in scoring defense (19.1), and 21st in rushing defense (124.5). The Badgers have had success holding off some of the Big Ten’s top rushers, including keeping Ohio State to a season-low 139 yards after it entered 17th in the country with 256.1 rushing yards per game. UW also kept Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell in check, holding the conference’s now-top leading rusher (137.9) to just 77 yards on the ground. The Badgers have also been tested in the air, as only 22 teams have faced more passing attempts this season than the 444 passes thrown by UW opponents. Still, the Badgers rank in a tie for 16th nationally by allowing foes to complete just 54.5 percent of their attempts. UW also ranks 12th nationally in yards per attempt, allowing just 5.8 yards per pass. Senior cornerback Devin Smith ranks in a tie for the Big Ten lead with four interceptions on the season and is third in the league with 16 passes defended on the season. Leading the defensive unit is senior linebacker Mike Taylor, who has recorded more tackles (270) than any player in the Football Bowl Subdivision over the past two seasons. With 120 tackles this year, Taylor ranks tied for 24th nationally. In his last eight games, junior linebacker Chris Borland has averaged 9.1 tackles, while posting a total of 9.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four pass break-ups, two fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
On special teams, Wisconsin’s Abbrederis has averaged 11.85 yards per punt return for his career, the ninth-best average among active FBS players with at least 40 returns. Drew Meyer ranks eighth nationally among freshman punters with 41.3 yards per punt, while the Badgers own a conference-best 23.1 yards per kickoff return average. The Cardinal boasts one of the Pac-12’s top punt returners in senior Drew Terrell (12.61 yards), who ranks second in the conference and 15th in the nation. Fifth-year senior punter Daniel Zychlinski’s 42.9-yard average ranks 28th in the nation and currently stands as the fifth-best season mark in Stanford history. Junior kicker Jordan Williamson has kicked three game-winning field goals this season, while on two occasions this year, the Cardinal has scored on special teams.