College football purists, do not throw your arms up in dismay just because the traditional Pac-10 versus Big Ten showdown did not unfold as planned. Sure, everyone across the country would have enjoyed seeing the powerful Big Ten Champion Wisconsin Badgers line up against the just-as-physical Stanford Cardinal.
That dream matchup was trumped by the Texas Christian Horned Frogs receiving the automatic qualifying bid as the highest rated non-automatic qualifier. Frankly, the Horned Frogs pose just as big of a challenge for the Badgers, as Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck would have if the Cardinal invaded Pasadena.
However, TCU's Gary Patterson and quarterback Andrew Dalton do not carry the same household cache as the academically charged Stanford squad would have, but the Badgers will not be surprised by the soon-to-be Big East competitors.
Debates have surfaced all year regarding non-BCS conference schools receiving automatic bids to play in high-profile games such as the Rose Bowl or even the National Championship. But the TCU Horned Frogs, with a 12-0 record, deserve a shot at knocking off one of the "big boys" this time around.
Last year's bowl game for TCU found themselves pitched against a familiar foe and fellow BCS party crasher, Boise State. The Fiesta Bowl was essentially the "Baby National Championship" and the Frogs were labeled as second fiddle once Boise State prevailed.
This time around, TCU is looking at taking out a power conference team, on quite frankly one of the largest platforms known to man: "The Granddaddy of Them All"—the Rose Bowl Game.
With TCU boasting the best scoring defense in the country and the fourth best scoring offense, Wisconsin has a lot of work ahead of them to win their fourth consecutive Rose Bowl game.
Although Gary Patterson's defense has been successful against their Mountain West opponents this season, the Wisconsin Badgers are a completely different entity.
The Badgers are not known for a high-octane offense in the likes of Oregon, Auburn or even TCU, but Wisconsin did score 83 points once, and 70 twice en route to their fourth Rose Bowl berth since 1994.
Wisconsin is driven by the usual suspects, a tough, physically driven coach in Brett Bielema, a stable of grind-it-out running backs, and a dominant defense. However, this time around, Wisconsin has a quarterback who can sling it.
Scott Tolzien, the 2010 Unitas Award winner, leads "On Wisconsin" under center, along with John Clay (936 yards, 13 TDs), James White (1,029 yards, 14 TDs), and Montee Ball (864 yards, 17 TDs), who are all capable of tossing aside the Frogs' top-ranked speedy defense.
By the sure numbers of this game, it looks to be an old fashioned duel. Both defenses have the capability of shutting down the opposition, but both offenses have the firepower to light up the San Gabriel Valley skyline.
Any number of factors could influence the outcome of this year's Rose Bowl. With determined teams with solid leadership role models on both sides, fans have everything they desire in a football game.
One determining factor that could sway the final score could be the pregame speech. In years past, Wisconsin has sought out motivation from a local Los Angeles sports legend, Tommy Lasords. Badger fans know how influential the former Dodgers skipper has been and hopefully will be this year.
With Brett Bielema looking for his first Rose Bowl trophy, Lasorda was invited back to talk with the Badgers once again. In the three previous meetings Wisconsin arrived in Pasadena, Lasorda assisted the Badgers in victories in '94, '99 and 2000.
Maybe Gary Patterson can trump Wisconsin's Lasorda speech by bringing in the LA Lakers Phil Jackson to impose some "Zen" in the Horned Frogs locker room.
In the Rose Bowl game, every little advantage helps.