When the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal square off against the unranked Wisconsin Badgers in one of the most one-sided bowl matchups in a long time, the outcome of the 2013 Rose Bowl will be determined by each team’s biggest X-factor.
There will be a plethora of big stars to watch on New Year’s Day, but only a few standout athletes have the ability to change the course of the game for their team.
With so much on the line in this matchup, Wisconsin and Stanford each need the school’s best players to step up one last time.
Glory is so close that each university can almost taste it.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Live Stream: ESPN3
Listen: ESPN Radio
Wisconsin’s Biggest X-Factor: Montee Ball, RB
There is no better pure running back in college football than Wisconsin Badgers senior Montee Ball.
Despite all of Ball’s immense talents, though, there are serious questions about the offensive line in front of him.
While Ball was still one of the best backs in the sport in 2012, his yards-per-carry average (5.2) was down over a yard from last season. Add in the fact that he scored 12 fewer touchdowns (21), and the Badgers RB is facing an uphill battle in the Rose Bowl.
Stanford’s defensive front seven was one of the best in college football in 2012—13th in the nation, allowing just 17.5 points per game—and Ball will have to overcome these odds if Wisconsin wants a chance to win the senior's final game.
Stanford’s Biggest X-Factor: Kevin Hogan, QB
While the biggest key to victory for the Stanford Cardinal is the team’s stellar defense, the ultimate X-factor in the 2013 Rose Bowl will be freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan.
After taking over the starting job from underperforming junior Josh Nunes, Hogan has played as solid as any young QB could considering the circumstances of his freshman season.
In five starts to finish in 2012, Hogan has 964 yards and eight touchdowns with just three interceptions. That's impressive.
Wisconsin has a very tough defense—ranked 19th in the nation with just 19.1 points allowed per game—and will need to throw every kind of exotic attack at Hogan to trick him into making mistakes.
Prediction: Stanford 33, Wisconsin 17
While the Wisconsin Badgers deserve immense credit for catching the Nebraska Cornhuskers sleeping in the Big Ten Championship Game, the team will be no match for the Stanford Cardinal.
With a much more impressive defensive unit and an offense predicated on keeping it simple and not turning the ball over, the Cardinal are too good to allow a subpar team like the Badgers come to the west coast and beat them on their own turf.
The Cardinal will cash in and win the 2013 Rose Bowl.
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