The Wisconsin Badgers and Stanford Cardinal have 21 Rose Bowl appearances between them, but have only faced each other in Pasadena once, when the Badgers eked out a 17-9 win over the Cardinal in the 2000 Rose Bowl in the final game of Ron Dayne's career.
Stanford hopes to have its revenge in this year's game, as the Cardinal is coming of its Pac-12 championship and will face a Badgers team with five losses and a fill-in head coach.
Yet despite the apparent talent gap, oddsmakers have kept the game within a touchdown, and legendary coach and university athletic director Barry Alvarez hopes to lead the Badgers to an upset victory in his return appearance on the sidelines.
Kickoff will take place at 5:07 p.m. EST, with ESPN broadcasting the game. Coverage will begin with the "Rose Bowl Game Pregame Show" at 4:30 p.m., following the Capital One Bowl trophy presentation.
For those whose New Year's Day plans will keep them away from a television, ESPN will offer coverage of the game via its ESPN3 live streaming service both on ESPN.com and the WatchESPN app for smartphones and tablet devices. ESPN Radio will call the game beginning at 4:00 p.m. EST.
Key to the game for both teams will be the matchup between Wisconsin's rushing attack, headlined by Montee Ball, and Stanford's run defense, ranked third in the nation. Ball and teammate James White have combined for 2,532 rushing yards this year, and the Badgers have been one of the very best rushing teams in the country in the final stretch of the season.
Should Alvarez attempt to shift the game strategy to a greater focus to the passing game to exploit Stanford's comparatively weak pass defense (83rd in the nation), the Badgers offense will rely on Curt Phillips at quarterback, one of three QB's to start for Wisconsin this year.
Phillips, who has been far from the model of consistency in his college career, will likely rely heavily on playmaker wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen, each among the premier Big Ten players at their positions despite the inconsistency at quarterback.
But Wisconsin won't be the only ones contending against a strong defense, as Stanford will contend against Wisconsin's defense, ranked 13th in the nation. Like Wisconsin, Stanford has experienced instability at quarterback, as Kevin Hogan replaced struggling Josh Nunes midseason.
Though Hogan has played well, head coach David Shaw will likely turn often to running back Stepfan Taylor, who has picked up 1,712 yards from scrimmage this year. Taylor is one of the best running backs in the country, providing a real challenge for the effective Badger defense.
Wisconsin's performance in 2012 has been far from dominating, and they would have settled for a second-rate bowl had their conference rivals not struggled down the stretch.
Still, the team has been effective on both sides of the ball as former head coach Bret Bielema worked out the kinks in his final season in Madison before departing for Arkansas, and Barry Alvarez hopes to bring some magic to what will likely be his last ever trip to Pasadena as head coach.
But Stanford is a gifted team with several pro-level players, and the Cardinal will be a tough team to beat in their quest for their first Rose Bowl victory in 30 years.
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