There is no bowl game with more tradition and history than the Rose Bowl Game. The Rose Bowl will feature a terrific matchup this year between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Oregon Ducks, two of the best teams in all of college football.
The game will be played on Jan. 2 at 5:00 p.m. ET in Pasadena, Calif. at the Rose Bowl. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Note: Rankings used are from my national Top 25 rankings.
Ranking in my National Top 25: No. 9
Record: 11-2 (6-2 Big Ten)
Biggest win: vs. No. 17 Michigan State (Big Ten Championship Game), 42-39, Dec. 3
Worst loss: at Ohio State, 29-33, Oct. 29
Through their first half of the regular season, the Wisconsin Badgers were easily disposing of every opponent in their path and were set to be a major national championship contender. Then, the Badgers had a horrible two-week lapse, losing consecutive road games to Michigan State and Ohio State, which knocked them completely out of the championship picture.
However, the Badgers did not allow that to derail the remainder of the season; they kept their focus and regained their momentum. They won their final four games of the regular season and then got revenge against Michigan State with a victory in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, which earned them a berth in the Rose Bowl Game.
The addition of starting quarterback Russell Wilson, a fifth-year senior who transferred as a graduate student from North Carolina State, was a huge improvement to an offense that also featured the best running back in the nation this year, Montee Ball. Those two stars led an offense that ranks 14th nationally in total offense.
The Badgers are also a terrific defensive team, ranking eighth nationally in total defense, and third nationally in passing defense.
Ranking in my National Top 25: No. 4
Record: 11-2 (8-1 Pac-12)
Biggest win: at No. 5 Stanford, 53-30, Nov. 12
Worst loss: vs No. 7 USC, 35-38, Nov. 19
After a huge win over Stanford, the Pac-12’s other top-five team, the Oregon Ducks moved into position to win the Pac-12 North. Getting to the national championship game also became a possibility at that point, with a potential rematch to come against the team who beat them in Week 1, LSU.
The following week, the Ducks suffered a loss against another fantastic Pac-12 team, USC, and the nation has ended up with a different LSU rematch game for a national championship game. But the Ducks still went on to win the Pac-12 Championship and have earned a berth in the Rose Bowl.
The Ducks have a very explosive offense, featuring star running back LaMichael James, that ranks fourth nationally in total offense and third nationally in scoring offense. The Ducks rank 63rd nationally in total defense.
Wisconsin RB Montee Ball, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 2
If I had a vote for the Heisman Trophy this season, my vote would have been cast for Montee Ball. With 38 touchdowns scored this season, Ball is one touchdown away from tying Barry Sanders’ record for the most touchdowns scored in a single season.
Ball has been historically good this season. While Alabama’s Trent Richardson receives more hype, Ball has been the best running back in college football this year. Not only does Ball lead the nation in touchdowns (with 11 more than anyone else), he also leads the nation with 1,759 rushing yards.
With a very good dual-threat quarterback in Russell Wilson and a great wide receiver in Nick Toon, the Badgers are a very complete offense. But there is no denying that Ball is the engine to the offense, and the outcome of this game will rely heavily upon his performance.
Oregon RB LaMichael James, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 2
There are only be a few other running backs in the nation who could argue my assertion of Montee Ball being the best in college football this season. Oregon’s LaMichael James is one of them.
James has had an underappreciated, yet remarkable, season himself. Early in the season, James had a three-game streak of 200-plus-yard rushing games, but in the third of those three games, he dislocated his elbow. After missing just two weeks with what appeared to be a gruesome injury, he came back and continued to perform well. James leads the nation with 149.6 rushing yards per game.
James has already announced his intentions to declare for the 2012 NFL Draft. As a highly productive, fast and tough back, he should be able to overcome his small stature to be a second-round selection.
Oregon has a plethora of offensive playmakers, including Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas, but James is the key to the offense’s explosion. Expect him to finish his collegiate career with a big Rose Bowl performance.
Wisconsin MLB Chris Borland, Sophomore
NFL Draft Grade: Round 4
After missing the 2010 season with a shoulder injury, Chris Borland came back to be the star of the Wisconsin defense this season. Alongside Mike Taylor, the duo has become as good of a linebacker combination as there is in college football.
Borland ranks 13th nationally in both total tackles, with 131, and tackles for loss, with 18. Borland lacks height, at only 5’11’’, but he makes up for it with a tremendous motor, toughness and instinctiveness.
Borland is always involved in the play, and his impact is consistently felt during the game. His play will be key in Wisconsin’s ability to slow down LaMichael James and the Oregon offense. Going up against such a potent offense, the Badgers need him to make a big impact on the game.
Both teams won their conference championships.
Common opponent: Oregon State
Wisconsin: Home win, 35-0, Sept. 10
Oregon: Home win, 49-21, Nov. 26
Wisconsin’s scoring offense: Fifth in nation, 44.6 points per game
Oregon’s scoring defense: 45th in nation, 23.6 points allowed per game
Oregon’s scoring offense: Third in nation, 46.2 points per game
Wisconsin’s scoring defense: Sixth in nation, 17.0 points allowed per game
Wisconsin’s rushing offense: 11th in nation, 237.4 yards per game
Oregon’s rushing defense: 45th in nation, 137.5 yards allowed per game
Oregon’s rushing offense: Fifth in nation, 295.7 yards per game
Wisconsin’s rushing defense: 46th in nation, 137.9 yards allowed per game
There is one prediction I can almost guarantee about the Rose Bowl: This game will be a shootout. Featuring two of the nation’s best offenses, there should be no shortage of scoring in this game. Not that it will be a repeat of the Alamo Bowl—these teams can actually tackle—but there will be plenty of high-octane offense on display.
The determining factor in this game is likely to be which run defense has more success. On paper, these teams are statistically very similar, which should make for a close game.
Wisconsin has the best running back on the field in Montee Ball and has both a stronger passing offense and passing defense. That said, the Ducks have even more offensive playmakers than do the Badgers, including LaMichael James, DeAnthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner and Josh Huff.
Where Oregon has the advantage in this game in speed. The Ducks offense is fast-paced with fast players, which should be able to wear down the Wisconsin defense, and the Ducks are better suited for the shootout-style game this is likely to become.
Final Score Prediction: Oregon 38, Wisconsin 31