Rose Bowl 2013: Players Who Must Step Up for Wisconsin to Defeat Stanford

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2012

Oct 20, 2012; Madison, WI, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Mike Taylor (53) during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium.  Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 38-13.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten didn't put its best foot forward this season, and Wisconsin's disappointing campaign didn't help.

If the Badgers want to redeem themselves versus the Stanford Cardinal in the Rose Bowl, a few players are going to have to step up their game. That's not including Montee Ball, who is far too obvious at this point to be mentioned here.

Wisconsin isn't favored entering Tuesday's game, but don't count this team out. Barry Alvarez will inspire his squad, and the team should come out fired up.

Let's take a look at three players who must play their best for Wisconsin to earn the victory.


Curt Phillips

Phillips must keep Wisconsin's offense balanced. If he doesn't, it's going to be a long day for Ball and the rest of the Badgers running backs.

He only started four games this season, but Phillips played well during that limited time. He threw four touchdowns, but, more importantly, he only tossed one interception.

Stanford shouldn't come out and score 40 points, so the Badgers don't need Phillips to put up ridiculous numbers, but he must keep the Cardinal defense honest.

Failing to do so will allow Stanford's front seven to attack Wisconsin's run game and negate any chance at victory in Barry Alvarez's temporary return to the sidelines.

Phillips must make plays and avoid turnovers if Wisconsin wants to have any chance at victory.


Mike Taylor

Taylor and Chris Borland lead the Badgers defense, and both will play an important role in the Rose Bowl.

But Taylor is the guy to focus on.

His speed allows him to track players down in the backfield, and he's a sound tackler when he gets his hands on the ball-carrier.

Taylor's production is impossible to miss. With 120 tackles, including 15 for a loss, and three sacks, it's obvious that he's played well all season long.

Wisconsin will have to keep Kevin Hogan in the pocket, but Taylor has a more important job. If he cannot contain Stepfan Taylor, it's going to be a long day for the Badgers.

If Wisconsin is going to win this game, it's going to come down to getting key stops. Taylor must spearhead that effort.


James White

Ball is more important than anyone in this game, but White is also a game changer.

Because Ball thrives running north and south, White complements him perfectly. He's an agile runner with a penchant for the big play. Once the ball is in his hands, he can turn an inch of space into a touchdown.

He had 800-plus yards and 12 touchdowns this season, but the key is that he averaged nearly seven yards per carry. He gives the Badgers big-play ability, and Ball doesn't always provide that.

Wisconsin's offensive line will be able to muscle up with Stanford's talented front seven, but the Badgers won't win a grind-it-out game against this team. That's how the Cardinal play, and they're better at it.

White can help the Badgers by breaking a few big runs and opening up the rest of the offense.