Rose Bowl 2013: Why Cardinal Matches Up Perfectly with Wisconsin

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIDecember 5, 2012

PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  The Stanford Cardinal wait to take the field for the game against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on October 13, 2012 in Pasadena, California. Stanford won 35-17.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

It's certainly not the 2013 Rose Bowl matchup anyone thought they'd see in the preseason, but here we are with Stanford and Wisconsin. With both teams playing gritty, traditional football, this should actually be a fantastic matchup.

These teams are the perfect Rose Bowl opponents for each other, and this is going to be a fun game to watch.

Here's some reasons why the Cardinal and Badgers match up so well.


Duel of the Running Backs

Both of these teams feature dominating running backs who should put on an absolute show in this game.

For Stanford, it's all about Stepfan Taylor.

With Andrew Luck out of the picture, Taylor became the primary force for the Cardinal. The senior back rushed for 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

He also worked well as a receiver, accumulating 270 yards receiving with two touchdowns. No wonder he was a fringe Heisman candidate by season's end.

Speaking of Heisman candidacy, it was early struggles that ultimately cost Wisconsin's tailback Montee Ball his.

None the less, Ball finished with a tremendous 1,730 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. He isn't as much a receiving threat as Taylor, but that doesn't diminish his offensive role.

Both men have been workhorses this season, averaging well above 20 carries per game.


Battle on the defensive front

Despite both teams' power running backs, their primary focus remains on defense.

The Badgers rank 13th in the FBS with 321 yards allowed per game. Stanford is right behind them at 21st and 338.9 yards allowed.

Both teams' opponents have averaged less than 20 points per game this season.

With the running game expected to be a big factor in this one, defense on the ground could become the difference maker.

If it does, Stanford gets an edge. Its rush defense is 3rd in the FBS, with opponents averaging less than 100 rushing yards per game.

Of course the Cardinal were No. 1 before the Pac-12 Championship Game, in which UCLA put up 284 yards rushing.

While the Badgers aren't as dynamic as the Bruins, Montee Ball will eliminate some of Stanford's defensive edge, evening things up on that side of the ball.


The quarterback experiment

With Stanford and Wisconsin both featuring tough run defenses, this game could actually come down to the quarterback situation, which is interesting seeing how both teams had mid-season changes on that front.

After suffering a broken collarbone in Week 9, the Badgers lost starting QB Joel Stave for the rest of the season. They've since relied on Curt Phillips to pick up the pieces.

The senior has had mixed results. He led Wisconsin through the Championship Game, but also has less than 10 throws and 100 yards in two of his four starts.

His best performance came against Penn State, when he threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

Stanford's story is a little different. Looking for some extra offensive punch, it willingly replaced starter Josh Nunes with freshman Kevin Hogan.

When Hogan has started, the Cardinal are 4-0 with wins over Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA (twice). In those games, he has averaged 195 yards passing and 36 yards rushing with eight total touchdowns.

If this game does come down to passing, Stanford has an edge. But Wisconsin has more experience with their senior—versus Stanford's freshman—so it's still anybody's game.


No matter how you look at this game, it looks to be one of the more even matches amongst the BCS Bowls.

Both teams have power running backs, brick wall defenses and questionable quarterbacks.

Those factors will not only make this an even match, but a gritty, hard-fought, traditional football kind of game.