The “Granddaddy of Them All” highlights the bowl action on Jan. 2 when No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 5 Oregon face off in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
While most would consider the Rose Bowl the top non-title bowl game, both UW and Oregon had National Championship hopes this year. The Badgers (11-2) were about 20 game seconds from playing in that game, falling in the final seconds in back-to-back weeks to Michigan State and Ohio State in midseason.
However, Wisconsin won out from there, including an epic victory over those Spartans in a highly-entertaining inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.
The Ducks (11-2) fell in their season opener to now top-ranked LSU, but had climbed up to No. 4 in the BCS and were in solid shape for the BCS title spot. But that was spiked when Oregon fell, 38-35, at home to Southern Cal on Nov. 19.
Oregon still advanced to the first Pac-12 title game and handled UCLA—perhaps the worst BCS conference finalist ever—in that one with relative ease.
The Ducks and Badgers are both looking for redemption in the Rose Bowl. Two years ago, Oregon fell 26-17 to Ohio State, while last year Wisconsin lost 21-17 to TCU—the Frogs replaced the Pac-12 champion Ducks last year because Oregon was in the National Championship Game.
And what should give Badgers fans a good feeling is that Oregon’s fast-paced, high-scoring offense (No. 6 in yards, No. 3 in rushing and points this season) has been slowed in the past two bowl games. In last year’s loss to Auburn, Oregon was held to 81 yards rushing after entering at 304 per game. And two years ago in the loss to the Buckeyes, Oregon was held 20.7 points and nearly 200 yards below its season averages.
Could all that time between the end of the regular season and the bowl games be giving defensive coordinators a window to figure out that Chip Kelly offense?
Wisconsin is no slouch on offense itself. They averaged 44.6 points, fourth best in the nation, and 467 yards per game this season.
Running back Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist, leads the nation with 1,759 yards rushing and 38 total touchdowns. With two more touchdowns in the Rose Bowl, he’ll break Barry Sanders’ single-season FBS record. And QB Russell Wilson was brilliant in his lone season in Madison, finishing behind only Heisman winner Robert Griffin with a 191.6 rating, throwing just three picks to 31 touchdowns.
This will be the last time you see Wilson and, expectedly, Ball and Oregon star running back LaMichael James (No. 4 in nation in rushing) on a college field. Wilson’s eligibility is up, and both Ball and James are likely headed to the NFL as juniors.
It’s also the last time you will see Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst on a Badgers sideline. He has accepted the Pitt head coaching job but will coach in this game. Chryst has been in his position for seven seasons.
For those of you thinking the Chryst thing might be a distraction, it’s the second year in a row that UW is dealing with something like this. Last year defensive coordinator Dave Doeren had been hired as head coach at Northern Illinois but stayed to coach in the Rose Bowl. While UW lost the game, that defense held TCU 22.3 points below its scoring average and to just 301 total yards, 190.5 yards below its average.
The Ducks and Badgers did have a common opponent this season.
Wisconsin beat Oregon State in Madison, 35-0, back on Sept. 10. Ball had his normal multiple-touchdown game—he has scored at least two in 13 straight games, an NCAA record—and Wilson threw for three TDs.
The Ducks beat the Beavers 49-21 in Eugene on Nov. 26 to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game. James left that one early with an elbow injury, but QB Darron Thomas threw for four scores as Oregon outgained OSU 669 to 213 (UW outgained OSU just 397 to 284). The score really wasn’t as close as it looked as OSU added a few late garbage touchdowns.
This is only the sixth time in the past 11 years that we have had the traditional Pac-12/Big Ten matchup in the Rose Bowl. The Big Ten’s lone win in that stretch was Ohio State over Oregon. The Badgers have lost three of their last four bowls, winning only the Champs Sports Bowl in 2009.
Oregon still hasn't won a bowl game in Kelly's three seasons. OU has made five appearances in the Rose Bowl but hasn’t won it since 1917. Wisconsin is in its seventh and last won in the Jan. 1, 2000, game behind Ron Dayne.
Oregon and Wisconsin have played four times (never in a bowl game), with the last in 2001.
2012 Rose Bowl Odds and Trends
Oregon opened as a six-point favorite with the total at 72 (it’s almost a 50-50 split on side right now). The Badgers are 7-5-1 ATS this year, while Ducks are 6-5-2. Over/under records: UO 9-4, UW 9-4.
Wisconsin is 4-0 ATS in past four as a dog and 3-0-1 ATS in past four nonconference games. The Badgers just 1-4 ATS in past five following a win. The Ducks are 1-4 ATS in past five vs. Big Ten. They are 1-3-1 ATS in last five as a favorite.
The under is 5-1 in UW’s past six nonconference games. The under is 4-1 in the Ducks’ past five neutral-site games as a favorite (and in past two bowl games).
2012 Rose Bowl Predictions and Betting Preview
This could be the best bowl game of the season, and it wouldn’t shock anyone to see a total approaching triple digits with the Ducks’ inventive offense against Wisconsin’s old-school power football.
Both defenses have shown some weaknesses at times. UW’s defense is No. 6 overall in the nation, however, while Oregon is way down the list. But that’s sort of unfair because that unit is on the field so much and often allows garbage yards and points with the Ducks so far ahead.
Still, it’s concerning that Oregon lost to a strong running team (LSU, although largely due to turnovers) and an excellent passing team (USC and Matt Barkley). Wisconsin can do both.
And I do think all the time to game plan benefits the Badgers to stop the Oregon offense. I think UW is the third-best team in the country, so it is the pick. Everything screams the over considering we have two top-five offenses and neither team has been held below 27 points yet this year. But 72 points is a ton, so I can’t do it. Go under (barely). Final score: UW 38, Oregon 31.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc's Sports football picks Web site.