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When: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Who: No. 6 Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)
Contractual Obligations: Big Ten champion (Wisconsin) vs. Pac-12 champion (Stanford)
Few thought that Stanford would be relevant this season without QB Andrew Luck, but offense is only one half of the equation on a football field. Defensively, Stanford might be as solid as anyone in the country.
The Cardinal held an Oregon offense that averages more than 50 points per game to only 14 in Eugene, one of nine opponents who have failed to eclipse 14 points against the Stanford defense this season.
With the nation's third-ranked rushing defense, Stanford is going to give Wisconsin's run-heavy offense all it can handle—a blessing in disguise, as the Cardinal struggle against the pass, ranking 84th in the nation.
Stanford is going to need every bit of that defense to stop Wisconsin's senior RB Montee Ball, who is as hot as any player in the country.
Over his last eight games, Ball has carried the ball 208 times for 1,277 yards and 15 touchdowns. That's an average of nearly 160 yards and two touchdowns rushing per game while picking up more than six yards per carry.
Going up against Stanford's stout rushing defense, Wisconsin could have major problems moving the ball on the ground, forcing senior QB Curt Phillips to take chances down the field to create some running room for Ball.
Speedy junior WR Jared Abbrederis is fearless going across the middle, and if Phillips is able to find him, he could give Stanford's awesome group of linebackers fits.
Stanford has its own big-time running threat in senior RB Stepfan Taylor, who is averaging nearly 108 yards per game since redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan took over under center for the Cardinal five games ago.
Hogan and Taylor could have issues ahead of them against a Wisconsin defense that is solid in all aspects of the game.
Led by junior linebacker Chris Borland, the Badgers defense ranks 19th in scoring (19.1 points per game), 21st against the run (124.46 yards per game) and 23rd against the pass (196.5 yards).
Heading into Championship Week, I predicted that Stanford would blow out UCLA while Wisconsin would lose a squeaker to Nebraska.
The exact opposite happened, with Wisconsin crushing Nebraska, 70-31, while Stanford just squeaked by UCLA, 27-24.
Wisconsin has plenty of Rose Bowl experience, and Ball is absolutely on fire. While Stanford is undefeated since Hogan took over under center, it looked vulnerable against UCLA.
The Badgers will get past the Cardinal in a hard-fought battle, 28-24.