Rose Bowl 2013: Keys to Victory for Wisconsin and Stanford

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Rose Bowl 2013: Keys to Victory for Wisconsin and Stanford
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 2013 Rose Bowl be one of the more lopsided matchups of all in this year's bowl schedule, but once the play clock starts running, you never know what could happen.

You never know if unranked Wisconsin is going to manage to knock off No. 6 Stanford Tuesday in the 5 p.m. ET tilt. Stranger things have happened. Just look at Clemson-LSU.

The cards seem heavily stacked in the Cardinal's favor. For one thing, they're playing in their home state. For another, they're ranked in the top 10 in the nation and won their division outright, not by default.

But Wisconsin has been known for pulling off a big win when it has really needed one.

Here's a look at what each side needs to do to pull out a victory in the Rose Bowl on Tuesday.

 

Wisconsin: Play a Full 60 Minutes

Looking at Wisconsin's record, you have to wonder how in God's name it managed to get a berth in a BCS bowl. It went 4-4 in conference play and lost three of five down the stretch.

But when the two teams above you in the division are both barred from postseason play due to NCAA sanctions, you tend to get a little bit more breathing room than other contenders.

Because there were only four teams in the Big Ten Leaders Division actually competing for some kind of postseason recognition, the Badgers had it a bit easier than others, and it's very likely that Stanford could end up being one of the toughest teams they have faced in 2012.

But don't count out the Badgers just yet.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

For one thing, this team isn't as bad as its record implies. Each of those three games it lost toward the end of the season, it lost in overtime. In fact, every one of Wisconsin's losses either came by three points or came in overtime. Obviously, this team wasn't getting blown out by anyone in 2012, and it was able to do some blowing out of its own—just ask Indiana and Nebraska.

What Wisconsin has had trouble doing is sustaining its level of play for a full game. In a 24-21 OT loss to Penn State in November, it was held scoreless in the second and third quarters after scoring two touchdowns in the first. In a 21-14 OT loss to Ohio State a week earlier, it was shut out in the first and third quarters.

If Wisconsin doesn't have the kind of defense that is able to stand strong in the game's waning minutes, it needs to come out with the kind of offense that can bury the opponent—kind of like it did in the Big Ten championship, when it laid a 70-31 beating on Nebraska. In that one, the Badgers scored three touchdowns in each of the first three quarters—plus another one in the fourth, for good measure.

That's the kind of offense they need to bring to Pasadena.

 

Stanford: Defense

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Cardinal didn't have the most explosive offense in the world in 2012. It was a capable offense, but in comparison to teams like Alabama and Oregon, it paled.

But like the Badgers, Stanford wasn't a team that ever lost by much in 2012. The Cardinal suffered a four-point defeat to Washington at the end of September and lost in overtime to Notre Dame two weeks later, but ever since then, they have rolled. And they have rolled because regardless of whether the offense was blowing away the opponent or struggling to put points on the board, the defense was strong.

It wasn't always perfect, but it was just good enough when it needed to be. Take the Pac-12 championship against UCLA. The Bruins entered the fourth quarter with a 24-17 lead, but the Cardinal shut them out in the final 15 minutes and tacked 10 points on the board to earn a slim 27-24 victory and earn their berth to the Rose Bowl.

Same goes for a crucial 17-14 overtime victory over then-No. 2 Oregon on Nov. 17. Stanford entered the fourth quarter down 14-7, held the Ducks scoreless in the final frame, scored a touchdown and came away with the win.

Stanford has proven this season that having a good defense pays off, especially in the final minutes with the game on the line. Especially facing a team that has been notoriously unsuccessful in overtime games, that's a huge boon.

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