Wisconsin vs. Oregon: 5 Things to Watch for in the Rose Bowl
The 2012 Rose Bowl features two very different styles of play when the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Oregon Ducks in the "Granddaddy of Them All."
Oregon features a high-octane, spread offense that utilizes speed and mismatches to put up gaudy numbers. The Ducks rode the backs of runners LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas to win the Pac-12 title, tempering their performance with thrilling quarterback play from Darron Thomas.
Wisconsin features a slower-paced, power offense that attempts to punish its opponents into submission. The Badgers utilized running back Montee Ball to the tune of 1,759 yards and 32 touchdowns while tempering that thundering run game with a thrilling passer in Russell Wilson.
Both defenses are good, though not necessarily great.
So, what will happen in the 98th annual Rose Bowl?
Here are a few things to look for when the Ducks and Badgers go head-to-head in Pasadena, Calif.
Look for Oregon to Take a Three-Headed Monster Approach
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Wisconsin's run defense isn't great, but it's not terrible either. In fact, their run defense ranks right behind Oregon's at 46th in the nation.
There's opportunity for Oregon to have success on the ground against the Badgers.
However, there's something to be said for having a full month to prepare for a team like Oregon. In the last two bowl appearances for the Ducks, they've had their run game thwarted.
In last year's National Championship Game, the Ducks were held well below their 5.93 yard-per-carry average, gaining just 75 rushing yards and averaging just 2.34 per carry.
The year before that, Oregon had their third lowest rushing total when they were held to 179 rushing yards in the Rose Bowl. Admittedly, that wasn't a horrendous showing, but Oregon still lost that game 26-17 to Ohio State.
This year is a little different though.
Wisconsin's run defense isn't as good as Auburn's or Ohio States were in those years and Oregon has even more depth to work with. The Ducks will likely find a decent measure of success with any one of their backs.
Mix and match them however, and Wisconsin should find it incredibly difficult to handle the three-headed monster.
Look for Montee Ball to Show Why He Was a Heisman Contender
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While this game may showcase two very different offensive schematics, both teams will still showcase their run game.
Wisconsin will not hesitate to put the ball in the hands of Montee Ball and he'll show why he was invited to New York City for the Heisman presentation.
Ball amassed 1759 yards on the season with 32 rushing touchdowns. He's also caught the ball 20 times for six more touchdowns.
Oregon has seen good defense and they've faced tough runners. They haven't faced anyone quite like Ball and that Wisconsin offensive line, though.
Look for Ball to chip away at Oregon's defense until he wears them down and picks up 100-plus yards on the day.
The Kickikng Game Will Come into Play
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Neither kicking game is all that strong. Wisconsin ranks 54th in the nation, completing 70 percent of their field goals. Oregon is 94th, completing just 61.5 percent of theirs.
Considering the styles of offense and talent available for both teams, it's not unthinkable that this game could remain very, very close. A play here or there could make all the difference in the world.
Oregon can score more quickly. Wisconsin can grind out the clock and chew up yards.
Neither style guarantees ultimate success. This game could very well come down to who had the ball last.
Enter special teams.
Wisconsin holds the edge in this battle, but that doesn't mean they'll automatically win it. Look for a key field goal to either pad the score enough to secure the win, or pull off the victory outright.
Will Bret Bielema Stick to the Game Plan?
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A year ago, Wisconsin was in this same game. They took on the Horned Frogs of TCU and their powerful defense.
For most of the game, Wisconsin's run game was working. John Clay, Montee Ball and James White were combining to slowly eat away at TCU and kept the Badgers firmly in the contest.
All he needed to do was stick to the game plan and Wisconsin could have won the game.
Instead Bielema appeared to panic. Late in the game, he turned to the pass attack led by Scott Tolzien.
While Tolzien was an ultra-efficient passer, Bielema fed him right into the heart of a stiff TCU defense and Wisconsin lost the Rose Bowl. Montee Ball was averaging six yards per carry and had amassed 132 yards on the day.
Yet, Bielema went away from the bread and butter.
Did he learn from that mistake? That will be a big question that will need answered.
If and when Oregon starts putting up big stats and quick scores, Bielema will have to have the patience and fortitude to stick it out and go with what brought his team to this point. If he gets away from the game plan again, Oregon will explode in his face and take away another Rose Bowl from the Badgers.
Look for Oregon to Get Aggressive
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Don't expect an over abundance of safe play from the Ducks.
While conventional thinking might be to play it safe and go with the sure thing in a big game like this, Oregon will want to steal the momentum and demoralize Wisconsin early. They'll want to see how Bielema and his staff react to a situation that threatens to get out of control.
They'll want to take Wisconsin away from their game plan.
Oregon has the talent to score quickly and score often. They can afford to take some chances now and again if there's enough to gain from it.
Expect the defense to dial up some extra shenanigans and for the offense to call some less-than-obvious plays.
There's a time for safe and secure. Then there's a time to throw a little caution to the wind. Against this Wisconsin defense, there will be opportunities to throw caution to the wind.