100th Rose Bowl Game Preview
Dec. 31, 2013
Big Ten Champion Michigan State (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten) will make its first-ever Bowl Championship Series appearance on Jan. 1, when the Spartans play Pac-12 Champion Stanford (11-2, 7-2 Pac-12) in the 100th Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO at 5:10 p.m. ET in Pasadena, Calif. Winners of nine straight, No. 4/4/4 Michigan State recorded its school-record 12th win of the 2013 season by defeating second-ranked Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans are heading to Pasadena for the first time since the 1988 Rose Bowl Game and competing in the contest for the fifth time in program history. Michigan State has advanced to a program-record seven straight postseason contests and is making its 24th bowl appearance in team history. MSU is 9-14 (.391) in bowl games, including a 3-1 record in previous Rose Bowl appearances. Following a 33-30 triple-overtime victory over Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl and a 17-16 win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last year, the Spartans now look to win three straight bowl games for the first time in school history.
In the Pac-12 this season, Stanford's offense rated fourth in rushing (210.9), sixth in scoring (33.2), ninth in total yards (413.1), and 11th in passing (202.2). Senior running back Tyler Gaffney leads the Pac-12 and ranks fifth in the FBS with 20 rushing touchdowns. He also ranks third in the FBS in rushing (124.5 ypg.) and carries (307), and seventh in rushing yards (1,618). Gaffney rushed a school-record 45 times for 157 yards in the win over No. 2 Oregon on Nov. 7. Junior quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is in his second year as the starter, has completed 61 percent of his passes (170-of-277) for 2,487 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Hogan's primary target has been Ty Montgomery, who has hauled in 58 catches for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 16.2 yards-per-catch average is among the top-four marks in the Pac-12. The offensive line, anchored by two-time consensus All-America guard David Yankey, has helped Stanford rank fourth nationally for fewest tackles for loss allowed/game (3.69) and 16th nationally for fewest sacks allowed/game (1.15).
The storyline of the game is expected to be Michigan State's potent defense that ranks first both in the Big Ten and the nation in several categories. Through 13 games, MSU's defense ranks No. 1 in the FBS in total defense (248.2), rushing defense (80.8) and opponent third-down conversions (.277). The Spartans also rank among the national leaders in pass efficiency defense (2nd, 91.5 rating), first downs defense (4th, 14.5), scoring defense (4th, 12.7) and passing defense (6th, 167.4). Michigan State joins Louisville and Virginia Tech as the only three schools in the FBS to rank in the Top 10 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing defense. The Spartans also lead the Big Ten in seven defensive categories (total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass defense, pass efficiency defense, opponent third-down conversions, and first downs defense). The Green and White have made headlines this season by creating turnovers and wreaking havoc behind the line of scrimmage. MSU was first in the Big Ten and tied for seventh nationally with a plus-14 turnover margin, which included 27 forced turnovers. That total comprised of 11 fumbles and 16 interceptions, the latter of which ranked third in the conference and 19th in the country. After going the entire 2012 slate without a defensive touchdown, MSU has five this year, including three off fumble recoveries and two pick-six returns. Two Spartans took home major individual awards from the Big Ten this year, as senior Darqueze Dennard was named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, while sophomore Shilique Calhoun was named the Smith-Brown Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. In addition, Dennard, Calhoun and senior linebacker Max Bullough were first-team selections by both the coaches and media, and safeties Kurtis Drummond and Isaiah Lewis were named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches. Calhoun is tied for fourth in the league with 7.5 sacks, while Dennard owns 14 passes defended, which is sixth-best, and four interceptions. Denicos Allen leads the Spartans with 91 tackles on the year, including 15.0 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, and 10 QB hurries. Drummond is averaging 6.6 stops per game and boasts four picks on the season. Senior Kyler Elsworth is expected to fill the vacancy at middle linebacker as Bullough did not make the trip.