The way this season has gone for the Big Ten, it seems rather fitting to have an unranked team represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. And lo and behold, here's 8-5 Wisconsin traveling to Pasadena to take on No. 6 Stanford, 11-2 and champions of the Pac-12. Blowout city all the way, right?
It won't be that easy for Stanford. Yes, the Cardinal are favored—seven-point favorites, according to one resource—but admit it: you'd expect the No. 6 team in the nation to be favored by more than a touchdown over an unranked team at a neutral location, right? And the Rose Bowl isn't even neutral; Palo Alto is about 1,500 miles closer to Pasadena than Madison is, and you can expect the balance of fans to reflect that disparity.
Who wins the Rose Bowl?
The reason the game figures to be that much closer is what makes Wisconsin such a dangerous opponent in the first place: that murderous ground game. Forget the woes of September when the Badgers couldn't move the ball against the likes of Utah State. As Wisconsin proved on Saturday by racking up well over 500 yards of rushing on Nebraska's defense, the offensive line is ready and willing to take the fight to anybody in the nation.
Of course, Stanford's not just anybody. The Cardinal rush defense is ranked third in the nation with only 87 yards given up per game; only Alabama and BYU have stronger defenses. Another 539-yard, eight-touchdown rushing game ain't happening for Wisconsin.
But it's not exactly like Wisconsin eked by Nebraska. The Badgers aren't going to need 70 points to pull off the win against Stanford—and if they do, well, that's probably a bad sign. If they even get to, say, 206 yards (which just happens to be what they rolled up on Ohio State, a similarly strong defensive team, in Week 11), they'll have a fighting chance.
And really, a fighting chance is all Wisconsin can ask for when it comes into a de facto road game against the No. 6 team in the nation and a defense that's designed to attack their greatest strength.
But Nebraska had a pretty solid rushing defense too. Had. We're just sayin'.