The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Johnny Manziel may be scorching hot coming into the new year, but the No. 6-ranked Stanford Cardinal are sizzling right along side them, having won seven straight games overall, including four in a row against ranked opponents.
However, there is still one last game the Cardinal must win in order to cap off an extraordinary year and an impressive 12-win season in the first year of the post-Andrew Luck era.
But before the action heats up in Pasadena, here are three bold predictions for Stanford in its Rose Bowl showdown with Wisconsin.
Stepfan Taylor Will Rush for Over 150 Yards
Stanford's durable and hard-to-bring-down senior running back Stepfan Taylor has had a sensational career with the Cardinal, and will want to go out in style on New Year's Day.
That's why I'm predicting Taylor will rush for at least 150 yards against Wisconsin on Tuesday. He's eclipsed the 100-yard mark in eight of 13 games so far this season, but has only surpassed the 150-yard mark three times (including a game vs. USC, as seen in the video above). The last time Taylor rushed for at least 150 yards was at Oregon in Stanford's November upset of the Ducks.
But in his most recent outing, Taylor was rather pedestrian, rushing for only 78 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries against UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Against a Wisconsin run defense that's allowing nearly 125 yards on the ground per game, look for Taylor to have a monster game for Stanford, moving the chains and wearing down the Badgers' front seven.
Cardinal Will Win Turnover Battle
Who will win the turnover battle?
Wisconsin doesn't turn the ball over very often, suffering just 11 turnovers in 13 games this season. But Stanford is one of the best teams in the country at forcing takeaways, having recovered 12 fumbles and picking off 14 passes already coming into Tuesday's matchup.
Therefore I predict the Cardinal will maintain its average, forcing two turnovers against the Badgers in Pasadena. With defensive playmakers like Ed Reynolds (six interceptions) and Jordan Richards (three interceptions) set to make their presence felt against Wisconsin, the turnover edge has got to go the Cardinal's way.
Wisconsin's defense will likely force a turnover of its own, but in the end I like Stanford to win the turnover battle, 2-1.
Stanford Will Win
Many college football fans forget that Wisconsin had lost three of its previous four games before laying 70 points on Nebraska in its Big Ten Championship Game win in early-December. The point being that Stanford is a much hotter team at the moment, and certainly a more talented one from top to bottom.
Given that reality, I'm predicting Pac-12 champion Stanford to win Tuesday's Rose Bowl. The Cardinal boast an exceptional third-ranked run defense, which will be able to contain Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
I envision Stanford narrowly edging Wisconsin in a very physical, hard-fought contest. Cardinal over the Badgers, 24-17
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