I still haven’t decided if I’m doing a third straight year of “Bowl-O-Rama,” mainly because my disdain for the BCS has reached such levels that I can’t even muster up a mocking interest in this year’s bowl lineup.
There are a few exceptions, including the BCS National Championship, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Rose Bowl.
If you like offensive fireworks, the latter two games will be the ones to watch. The Fiesta Bowl matches the second-highest scoring team in the country (Oklahoma State, 49.3 ppg) with the team ranked fifth (Stanford 43.6 ppg), while the Rose Bowl features Oregon (3rd, 46.2 ppg) and Wisconsin (4th, 44.6 ppg).
There have been some amazing shootouts in the Rose Bowl (2006: Texas 41, USC 38; 1999: Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31; 1991: Washington 46, Iowa 34), and there are plenty of reasons to expect another one when the Ducks and Badgers take the field. Interestingly enough, Oregon’s defensive coordinator, Nick Aliotti, held that same title with UCLA in the 1999 Rose Bowl, when the Bruins defense had no answers for Wisconsin’s brute force offense, led by tailback Ron Dayne.
Suffice it to say, the Badgers have evolved from those days. While Wisconsin still likes to pound the football, the team gained more yards via the air this season (3,148) than it did on the ground (3,086). While Ducks-Badgers may be billed as a matchup of speed vs. size, there’s a lot more to consider.
One of the most important factors in evaluating any bowl. Simply put, there are plenty of bowl games in which players, coaches, and fans are just not emotionally invested. That shouldn’t be the case in the 2012 Rose Bowl, even though both programs had legitimate national title game aspirations prior to the season. Playing in Pasadena in January trumps every other bowl travel destination beyond New Orleans, so there’s no reason to look at this game as a consolation prize. Besides, both programs should have plenty to prove. The Badgers lost to TCU in last year’s Rose Bowl, while the Ducks have lost in BCS games (including the 2010 Rose Bowl, 26-17 to Ohio State) in each of the last two seasons.
Slight edge: Wisconsin, only because the Badgers hopes of playing for a national title were dashed in late October…compared to Oregon, which harbored those hopes until an 11/19 home loss to USC.
WHEN OREGON HAS THE BALL
The Ducks run a fast-paced offense, looking to maximize the number of plays run by minimizing the time between plays. Oregon has run 951 plays from scrimmage this season, but only averages 25:03 in average time of possession, compared to 34:57 for its opponents. (Contrast that with Wisconsin: 865 plays run, 31:58 average time of posession, 28:02 for Badgers opponents.) UW coach Bret Bielema plans to prepare his defense by having them practice against two scout team offenses.
That may help the Badgers prepare for the Ducks’ pace, but good luck simulating the explosiveness of Oregon’s offensive standouts: LaMichael James (1,646 rushing yards), Kenjon Barner (909 rushing yards), De’Anthony Thomas (440 yards rushing, 571 yards receiving), and QB Darron Thomas (2,493 yards passing, 205 yards rushing). Keep an eye also on senior WR Lavasier Tuinei (441 receiving yards, 8 TD’s ), who is a matchup problem at 6-5, 216, as well as TE senior David Paulson (428 receiving yards, 6 TD’s).
The last we saw of the Wisconsin defense, it was allowing 471 total yards and 39 points to Michigan State–but the Badgers still won the game. Linebackers Mike Taylor (84 total tackles) and Chris Borland (75 total tackles) have led Wisconsin’s defense all season, and if the Badgers are going to slow down the Ducks, both will have to play big. UW’s defensive line depth will be tested in this game as well.
WHEN WISCONSIN HAS THE BALL
See Montee Ball. See Montee Ball run the ball. See the Badgers play ball control offense. The best way for Wisconsin to slow down Oregon’s offense is to keep it on the sidelines. When USC won at Oregon, the Trojans managed to win the time of possession battle, 36:27 to 23:33, with a run/pass ratio of 38/34. USC only gained 139 yards on the ground, but by committing to the run, it opened up routes for QB Matt Barkley, who threw for 323 yards & 4 TD’s.
Having some four weeks between the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl will allow Wisconsin’s offensive line to heal up, and if that unit can open holes for Ball while providing QB Russell Wilson time to operate, then the Badgers should be able to move the football. Speaking of healing up, Wisconsin will need WR Nick Toon at full capacity vs. the Ducks, although Jeff Duckworth’s emergence in a big game situation was a pleasant development for the Badgers. I also like Wisconsin’s ball security this season: in 13 games, 4 lost fumbles, and 4 interceptions. Compare that with Oregon’s 12 lost fumbles and 6 interceptions thrown.
Oregon’s explosiveness in the return game should be cause for concern, since that group includes James (1 PR TD), Barner, & De’Anthony Thomas (2 KR TD’s), while Wisconsin’s had some issues in its coverage units. If the Badgers have an advantage, it’s with kicker Philip Welch, who’s 4-5 on FG attempts, including 1-1 on kicks from 40-49 yards, and 1-1 on kicks of 50+ (long of 52). The Ducks Alejandro Maldonado, meanwhile, is 6-11 on his FG attempts: 2-5 from 40-49, and 0-1 on 50-59.
Slight edge: Oregon
Neither Oregon’s Chip Kelly nor Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema has coached a team to a win in a BCS bowl. Kelly is 0-2 these past two years, with Bielema 0-1 after last year’s loss to TCU. Someone will get into the win column this year, leaving the other to deal with the dreaded “can’t win the big one” tag. Both teams are very good at what they do, and both figure to be prepared for the challenge.
On September 10, at Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers blanked Oregon State, 35-0, as Wisconsin rolled up 208 rushing yards to the Beavers’ 23. At Autzen Stadium on November 26, it was Oregon over Oregon State, 49-21, with the Ducks dominating the ground game, 365-16. What can we conclude from those numbers, other than OSU can’t run the football?
Not yet…I’ll wait until I’ve had a chance to see each team practice, and had a chance to talk with players and coaches from both sides. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to that opportunity. I will predict that there will be much more on this game on this very blog in the coming weeks. With that, here’s a random comparison that has no bearing on the game whatsoever.
BEST COLLEGE THEMED MOVIE FILMED ON CAMPUS
“Animal House” – Oregon. “Back To School” – Wisconsin.
Posted under Hometown Sports
This post was written by bbradovich on December 12, 2011