The 2014 Rose Bowl features two of the nation's most respected programs, as Stanford (11-2) and Michigan State (12-1) will compete in "The Granddaddy of Them All" on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif.
Stanford carries a three-game winning streak into the upcoming contest, having knocked off conference rival Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship Game to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Michigan State was nearly flawless in 2013, losing but one game to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish early in the season. The Spartans have rattled off nine straight wins since then, most recently taking it to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Participating in a BCS bowl game comes with its perks and challenges. Here's a look at a few players and coaches from both teams enjoying a gorgeous day at Disneyland, which is right around the corner from the Rose Bowl:
Long before the whistle blows for the opening kickoff, however, those happy smiles will turn into game faces. It's going to be a slobberknocker of a contest, as the two teams both feature punishing defenses and powerhouse running games.
Here's a look at when and where to catch the action, along with betting information and injury reports for both teams.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 1, at 5 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Betting Lines (via Covers)
- Over/Under: 42.5 points
- Spread: Michigan State (+6.5)
Team Injury Reports (via USA Today)
|Jon Reschke||LB||Questionable (foot), Dec. 17|
|Max Bullough||LB||Out (suspension), Dec. 25|
|Skyler Burkland||T||Out (undisclosed), Aug. 24|
|A.J. Troup||WR||Out (knee), Aug. 14|
|Ikenna Nwafor||DT||Out (undisclosed), Dec. 17|
|Ben Gardner||DE||Out (pectoral), Oct. 29|
How Will Michigan State Handle Stanford's Offense Without Max Bullough?
Michigan State's defense finished the regular season ranked No. 2 against the run (80.8 rushing yards allowed per game) and was the No. 4-ranked scoring defense (12.7 points allowed per game).
Senior linebacker Max Bullough had a lot to do with both numbers. He's the face of the defense, and the Spartans have relied on him time and time again in 2013 to come up with big plays in critical situations.
Unfortunately, he was suspended by the team for the Rose Bowl, as noted by Brett McMurphy of ESPN:
Michigan State announces senior LB Max Bullough suspended for Rose Bowl for violating team rules. Career over— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) December 26, 2013
To say the news came as a shock would be an understatement. Matt Charboneau from The Detroit News was stunned, noting Bullough was the last person he expected it would happen to:
Not sure I can convey how stunned I am that Max Bullough has been suspended. Absolute last person I thought this would happen to— Matt Charboneau (@mattcharboneau) December 26, 2013
Kyler Elsworth—a fifth-year senior—will start in place of Bullough, per Josh Slagter of MLive.com, but he's accumulated just 22 total tackles in his career at Michigan State. Needless to say, the Spartans aren't likely to be as stout up the middle with him in the lineup.
Head coach Mark Dantonio would argue that point, however, per Slagter: "It's not one individual, it's our system."
It won't take long to see if Dantonio's "system" is up to the task, as Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports suggested:
The Max Bullough suspension hits Michigan State's defense where it could hurt most. Stanford loves to run right at you.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) December 26, 2013
Stanford comes into the game with a no-nonsense offense that averages 210.9 rushing yards per game (No. 22 in the nation). Led by Tyler Gaffney, the Cardinal offense will relentlessly attack Michigan State's front seven with a physical, power running game.
Michigan State isn't the only team with a dominating defense.
Stanford's defense has been known to shut down opposing offenses, as was clearly illustrated in early Nov. when the Oregon Ducks scored just 20 points in a losing cause.
Which team will win?
Spartans running back Jeremy Langford will bang his head up against the brick wall that is Stanford's front seven time and time again—to no avail. Inside linebacker Shayne Skov leads a stingy unit that ranked No. 3 against the run—right behind the Spartans.
On the other side, Gaffney will find room against Michigan State's depleted front seven, helping the Cardinal move the chains on offense and control the clock.
It's going to be an ugly win, but a win nonetheless for Stanford at the 2014 Rose Bowl.
Stanford wins, 23-20.
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