Let's face it; you aren't giving the Wisconsin Badgers a shot to win the 2013 Rose Bowl against the Stanford Cardinal. Wisconsin wouldn't even be in this position if it wasn't for Ohio State and Penn State facing NCAA sanctions. Not to mention, Stanford has looked terrific, winning five of its six games against ranked opponents.
But if the college football bowl season has taught us anything, it is that anything can happen this time of year. We have already seen a few upsets the past week or so and it likely won't be the last as we continue to wrap up the college football season.
Why not the Badgers?
Here is what Wisconsin has to do to knock off a heavily favored Stanford team.
Let Curt Phillips Try and Help the Offense
With so many guys playing the quarterback position for Wisconsin this season, Curt Phillips will be the starter for today's game. He doesn't have much experience throwing the football at the collegiate level and has only thrown the ball 65 times this season. However, he will be the key on offense if Wisconsin would like to move the football against a tough Stanford defense.
Everybody and their mother know that Wisconsin is going to want to run the football in this game. The team has a two-headed monster in Montee Ball and James White, and it doesn't help matters that it is ranked 115th in the country in passing yards. Running the ball has been the Badgers' bread and butter and that likely won't change in this matchup.
The problem is that Stanford is ranked third in the country in stopping the run, allowing less than 90 yards on the ground a game. Despite playing in an offensive conference in the Pac-12, Stanford is allowing less than three yards per carry on average and has held eight teams to under 100 rushing yards, including two teams in the negative.
The Cardinal defensive line gets great pressure up front and the linebacker play is some of the best you will see in college football.
This is where Phillips comes in, as he will need to make plays and help open things up for the running game. Just lining up and running at Stanford isn't going to be enough. Phillips must help sell the play-action pass and hit the defense over the top with big plays to Jacob Pedersen and Jared Abbrederis.
The senior quarterback is also capable of making plays with his feet. He was considered a dual-threat quarterback when he came out of high school in 2008. If he can help keep the Stanford defense on its toes, the running game should come easier to Wisconsin and the team’s chances of winning will increase dramatically.
Stop the Stanford Ground Game
What makes this matchup interesting is that both of these clubs are very similar. Much like Wisconsin, Stanford has also had trouble throwing the football and relies heavily on running back Stepfan Taylor to get the job done. His 302 carries are the seventh-most in all of college football.
So in order for Wisconsin to stand a chance, it must slow down the senior running back and force the Cardinal to do something else on offense.
The Badgers have been solid throughout the season in stopping the ground game, allowing less than 125 running yards a game and holding six teams to under 100 yards. With the same token, another committed running team in Nebraska was able to gash this unit twice for more than 250 yards on the ground.
If the defense Badger fans have seen for most of the year decides to show up, it would force Stanford to try and make plays in the passing game. This favors Wisconsin considering Kevin Hogan is a freshman quarterback who only has five starts under his belt. He is capable of making plays with his legs as well, but it would be hard to pull that off if the offense is consistently stuck in third-and-long due to a lack of running game.
Like Wisconsin, everybody knows Stanford is going to want to run the football in this contest. If the Badgers can figure out how to slow things down, you have to like their chances against a freshman quarterback.
Note: All stats come from CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.