Rose Bowl 2013: Why Wisconsin vs. Stanford Will Be the Best BCS Game

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Rose Bowl 2013: Why Wisconsin vs. Stanford Will Be the Best BCS Game
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Those who agree with the idea that teams like Wisconsin and Northern Illinois deserve to play in a BCS bowl game over teams like Georgia and Oklahoma are few and far between.

But that doesn't mean we can't sit back and enjoy some quality football.

Four of the five BCS bowl games feature matchups between ranked teams, as one would expect, but the Rose Bowl includes the unranked, third-place 8-5 Wisconsin Badgers playing against the Pac-12 champion, sixth-ranked Stanford Cardinal.

This doesn't look like a game that should be representing the BCS, and we'll likely never see anything like it again.

All this being said, Wisconsin and Stanford isn't necessarily the most hyped BCS bowl game, but it will be the best one.

How can this be? Even though the discrepancy appears rather great, the Rose Bowl involves two teams who are very closely matched—the closest matched teams out of all the BCS bowls, as a matter of fact.

The first evidence of this claim comes from the betting lines. According to teamrankings.com, Stanford is favored by 6.5 points in the Rose Bowl, the only BCS game that features a line under a touchdown. The next closest comes from the Fiesta Bowl, where the line is set at 9.5 points with Oregon as the expected victor.

Perhaps this comes as a surprise to some, but when you break it down further, it comes down to the level of respect—and disrespect—people involved with college football have for the BCS bowl teams, their conferences, reputations and styles of play.

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Take Alabama for instance. The Crimson Tide are always extremely well prepared by their head coach, play in the most difficult conference in the country and are coming off a dominant performance in last season's national championship game.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame has won by the skin of its teeth on multiple occasions this season, and there is a high level of uncertainly about how the Fighting Irish will respond to playing on the national stage, a place they haven't seen much of in the past few decades.

In the case of the Fiesta Bowl, Oregon basically gets by on the style of play argument, and even though the Ducks were dropped by Stanford, they are regarded by many as the best team in the Pac-12 because of Chip Kelly's exciting brand of football and their numerous lopsided victories.

The story of Northern Illinois has been pretty well-documented. Although the Huskies were able to sneak into the Top 15 of the BCS rankings and as a result, the Orange Bowl, pretty much no matter who they got paired up against, the Huskies were going to be heavy underdogs. 

And then there is Louisville squaring off against Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals may be the champion of the Big East, but that isn't saying much in this day and age, and going up against an SEC opponent in the Gators doesn't help the matter.

That brings us back to the Rose Bowl—Wisconsin vs. Stanford.

Both teams come out of respected power-six conferences, and while it can be argued that both the Big Ten and Pac-12 are having down years, each conference has at least three teams in the BCS Top 25, and that doesn't even include the Badgers.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Who would have ever thought that it would be Kevin Hogan leading Stanford back to the Rose Bowl, and not Andrew Luck?

Each Rose Bowl participant has also had the reputation in 2012 of playing in some nail-biters. Wisconsin played in seven games decided by seven points or less, while Stanford had nine such contests, setting us up for a Rose Bowl that has a great chance to come down to the final play.

Neither team sports much of an aerial attack either, which tends to prevent them from stringing together big plays and opening up an insurmountable lead. Combine that with two top 20 scoring defenses, and it's bound to be a grind-it-out, down-to-the-wire ballgame.

It might depend on what style of football you enjoy watching, but regardless of the ebb and flow and the amount of scoring, a close football game throughout makes for a more interesting scenario than a team winning by a lot to a little.

On Wisconsin's side, an added dimension emerges from its tumultuous head coaching situation when Bret Bielema left for Arkansas just days after sealing a trip to Pasadena. With athletic director Barry Alvarez back on the sideline, a potential feel-good story is in the works as the former head coach strives for his fourth Rose Bowl victory.

It just so happens that Alvarez's final Rose Bowl conquest came over Stanford back in 2000, and it goes without saying that Alvarez and Co. are hoping that the third time's the charm, as Wisconsin has fell in back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances.

The Rose Bowl may be the best BCS game by default, but the styles of play and front-page-worthy storylines help add to the allure of what will be the most entertaining bowl game of them all.

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