The season's first BCS bowl game will kick off Tuesday evening (or afternoon, depending on where you are), as the Stanford Cardinal take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl.
Both teams earned berths to the storied game by virtue of wins in their respective conference championship games.
Stanford won a nail-biter over UCLA, 27-24, capping off their first year post-Andrew Luck with an 11-2 regular-season record. Wisconsin struggled to win close games during Big Ten play, but thanks to sanctions at Ohio State and Penn State, the Badgers were granted an opportunity to play in the conference championship. And they made the most of their serendipity, throttling Nebraska 70-31 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Their records are disparate, but on paper this should be a good, even, physical matchup. Let's take a look at where you can catch it:
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
Where: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Live Stream: ESPN3
Wisconsin is playing its third consecutive Rose Bowl, but their appearance in Pasadena is regarded as fluky nonetheless. They're only 8-5, and in a normal season, either the Buckeyes or Nittany Lions would be here in their spot.
But it's hard to overlook the Badgers' talent. Of their five losses, four came by a field goal, and three came in overtime. They have an absurdly low floor—that is, they rarely get blown out—and as they proved against Nebraska, they have a pretty high ceiling, too.
Nebraska's performance against Georgia today lends some extra credence to Wisconsin's bona fides. At time of publication, the Huskers are tied 31-31 with the near-SEC champions. However that game should end, Nebraska's resolve surely makes Wisconsin's Big Ten Championship win look much more impressive.
The same cannot be said for Stanford's championship game opponent, UCLA, who was thoroughly dominated by Baylor last Friday. If Baylor could beat the Bruins by 23, and Stanford could only beat them by three, what, exactly, does that say about the Cardinal?
Of course, things are never that cut and dried. The transitive property isn't an exact science in football—or any other sport, for that matter. There are too many other variables in play. But it's certainly something to keep in mind for those who think Stanford is going to waltz to a Rose Bowl victory.
This should be a brilliant, defensive football game between two teams who mirror each other nicely. If things go according to plan, the first huge game of 2013 shall not disappoint.