Rose Bowl 2013: Wisconsin's Montee Ball Will Outshine Stanford's Stepfan Taylor

Randy ChambersAnalyst IDecember 12, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 29: Running back Montee Ball #28 of the Wisconsin Badgers stiff arms safety P.J. Smith #13 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game at Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

When the 2013 Rose Bowl kicks off in the month of January, you can expect Montee Ball to have a more productive day than Stepfan Taylor.

The matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Stanford Cardinal is actually a special meeting between the two teams. Not only is it the first matchup between the two schools since 2000—and neither team was really expected to be here—but it features two of the most talented runners in the country.

Ball has produced over 5,000 career rushing yards and has broken school and college football records along the way. Taylor has cleared the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last three seasons and has become one of the more unappreciated running backs over the last couple of years.

This will be the last collegiate game for both players, helping to create must-watch television.

So why will Ball outshine Taylor?

He really has no choice.

The Badgers were blessed when Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin last season, as he helped create a passing game, which took loads of pressure off of Ball. Now with Wilson in the NFL, the team has no passing game whatsoever. Thanks to the senior running back, the ground game is ranked 12th in the country, but 162 passing yards a game is good for 115th.

It hasn't mattered if it was Danny O'Brien, Joel Stave or Curt Phillips throwing the football, Wisconsin has been a one-dimensional offense all season long. In the victory over Indiana, Wisconsin racked up 605 total yards and only 41 of those were obtained through the air.

With such an up-and-down season, the Badgers have needed every one of those monster performances from their senior running back. Ball averaged well over five yards a carry, rushed for 1,730 yards and scored 21 touchdowns.

In three of the four games that he failed to rush for more than 100 yards, his team ended up losing the ball game.

On the other hand, Stanford has found a bright spot in the passing game ever since Kevin Hogan has become the starter. The freshman quarterback is completing 73 percent of his passes, has thrown nine touchdowns in five starts and he is even a threat running the football (209 rushing yards).

Of course, the Cardinal would much rather have Andrew Luck calling the shots, but having Hogan in the game has provided Stanford with a reliable weapon to make plays. This has helped produce somewhat of a balanced offense and has taken some of the pressure off of Taylor in the backfield.

Before Hogan was the starter at the quarterback position, Taylor had carried the ball more than 25 times in five games. Now that Stanford recently made the quarterback change, Taylor has gone two games with under 20 carries and has only gone over 25 touches once in the last five contests.

Stanford will remain a run-first team. However, because Stanford has a quarterback that the coaching staff can rely on, there is little problem with opening up the playbook and giving Taylor a rest every now and then.

We can't say the same thing for Wisconsin, as Ball is the first, second and third option. The team sprinkles a little bit of James White in the conversation, but it is Ball who is the ultimate workhorse at the running back position. After all, his 332 carries on the season are the third-most in all of college football.

Ball will outshine Taylor in the BCS Rose Bowl.

If he doesn't, there is little hope the Wisconsin Badgers will win.

Note: All stats come from unless otherwise noted.