Rose Bowl could hinge on overlooked units

There's little doubt that Wisconsin's offense and TCU's defense will get most of the attention leading up to the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

The Badgers have made national news with their scoring prowess, reaching 70 points or more in three games and averaging 48.3 points during a seven-game Big Ten win streak to end the regular season. TCU's defense needs no introduction as the nation's top-ranked unit (215.4 ypg allowed) and a group loaded with NFL prospects.

Most folks tuning in to the Rose Bowl will do so primarily to watch these elite units match up.

But don't be surprised if the game is decided differently. Wisconsin safety Jay Valai thinks it'll come down to TCU's offense vs. the Badgers' defense.

"That's a very overlooked part of the game," Valai said. "Especially when they have a great offense over there, and our defense, we like making turnovers and we're very opportunistic. That could come down to what the game is going to be. You may get a stalemate on the other side, so we know we've got to come out guns blazing."

TCU's overshadowed offense actually has scored the same number of points as Wisconsin (520), tying the Badgers for fourth nationally in scoring (43.3 ppg). And Wisconsin's defense has somewhat quietly risen to 22nd nationally in yards allowed (323.5 ypg) and 29th nationally in points allowed (20.5 ppg).

The Badgers have become particularly good at creating takeaways, forcing 16 of them in their final four games.

"That's kind of why you saw such staggering numbers from our offense," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "We got them the ball back and we had a couple of touchdowns on defense. We want to carry that momentum into the bowl game and do the same kind of thing.

"We want to make plays, we want to create some momentum, and we want to give our offense the ball as many times as we can."

Wisconsin can't really be called a lock-down defense, but the Badgers are fine with being labeled a playmaking defense.

"In a big-time game, you'd rather be a playmaking defense than a lock-down defense," Valai said. "Because making the plays, you're going to create the lock-down ability. We just want to be opportunistic.

"That's our role on the football field."