Rose Bowl blog debate: TCU vs. Wisconsin

December, 31, 2010
12/31/10
9:30
AM ET
Gabe Carimi and Marcus CannonGetty Images, Icon SMIWhich left tackle will have a bigger impact: Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi or TCU's Marcus Cannon?
LOS ANGELES -- The Grandaddy of Them All has something to entertain the whole family this year. The matchup between No. 3 TCU and No. 5 Wisconsin features many fascinating subplots, intriguing individual matchups and -- to take the macro view -- two really, really good teams. Bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett are ready for their close-up in this Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO debate:

Brian Bennett: OK, Adam. Time for you to take a break from getting starlets' phone numbers and shopping on Rodeo Drive. Let's talk about a very interesting Rose Bowl. Wisconsin has won the eyeball test this week and may have cracked the foundation of the Los Angeles Downtown Marriott on Media Day with all that bulk in one place. But TCU has seemed focused and has a ton of athletes. Of all the contrasts and matchups in this game, which one do you think is most important to the outcome?

[+] EnlargeDalton
Douglas C. Pizac/US PresswireTCU's offensive line has kept Andy Dalton's jersey pretty clean this season, allowing just nine sacks.
Adam Rittenberg: Easy, Bennett, don't tell my wife. Actually, I was planning to meet up with Suge Knight later. You know how I roll. I think this game comes down to the line of scrimmage, an area where there might be more similarities than differences. Both teams have outstanding left tackles (Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, TCU's Marcus Cannon) and outstanding defensive ends (Wisconsin's J.J. Watt, TCU's Wayne Daniels). TCU's size along its offensive line is overlooked next to Wisconsin's, and Wisconsin's speed along its defensive line is overlooked next to TCU's. The team that controls the line of scrimmage wins the game. Can TCU's defense endure Wisconsin's power game? Can Wisconsin's defense find a way to get to Horned Frogs veteran quarterback Andy Dalton?

BB: The line of scrimmage will be critical, but I think TCU's defensive linemen are good enough to hold their own. I wonder about the safeties who will need to help out against the run. They're going to be physically outmatched by linemen, tight ends and John Clay. They had better tackle well and be extremely sound in their technique, though the Horned Frogs excel at that. And then of course you worry about play-action if you're Gary Patterson and Dick Bumpas.

On the other side, TCU's offensive line has given up just nine sacks all year. Watt versus Cannon is going to be fun to watch, but I think Dalton will stay pretty clean. I wouldn't expect Wisconsin to come after him too hard because of the threat of the zone-read and the Horned Frogs' tendency to throw those underneath routes. I would think Dave Doeren would want to keep his linebackers covering those areas against speedsters like Jeremy Kerley and Jimmy Young.

Another question I have is how the layoff will affect these teams. We've seen some spread teams struggle with timing in bowls. That might bother TCU, which never found its rhythm last year in the Fiesta Bowl, more than a ground-based attack like Wisconsin. Agree?

AR: It could, Brian, but Wisconsin was so hot at the end of the regular season, scoring 201 points in its final three games. It might take some time to re-establish the confidence and the rhythm, which could prove costly against a defense like TCU's. The Badgers really tried to maintain the intensity in bowl practice, having the first-team offense and first-team defense practice a lot against one another. But I would expect a little lull on game day. Wisconsin will benefit from having running back John Clay at near 100 percent for the game. Tackling Clay isn't a lot of fun, and he might be able to wear down TCU's defense and create lanes for James White and Montee Ball.

One area that really intrigues me about this game is special teams. Both teams have strong returners, especially TCU with Kerley. How big of a factor will the kicking game be for the Frogs?

BB: Well, Frogs fans surely understand the importance of special teams after last year's Fiesta Bowl loss, in which a Boise State fake punt made the difference. Kerley is electrifying and could single-handedly change the game; Wisconsin did surrender a punt return touchdown in its only loss, against Michigan State. TCU's punting is mediocre, and kicker Ross Evans has made only one field goal longer than 40 yards this season.

Another hidden area could be red-zone efficiency. Both teams were great at punching it in during the year, and in a potentially close game between two high-scoring teams, a red-zone stop could be huge. Any other under-the-radar factors jump out at you?

[+] EnlargeWisconsin's Lance Kendricks
Jeff Hanisch/US PRESSWIREWisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks (39 catches for 627 yards and 5 TDs) is a future NFL prospect.
AR: Great call on the red-zone effectiveness. Wisconsin is tied for fifth nationally in red-zone offense, while TCU is tied for 16th. TCU is much better than the Badgers in red-zone defense, though (51st nationally vs. 95th). One area I've thought a lot about is the play-action game for both teams. TCU is an extremely disciplined defense, but Scott Tolzien runs the play-action very well and usually has tight end Lance Kendricks or a wide receiver open for a pass. Kendricks is a future NFL prospect, and receiver Nick Toon might be as well. Wisconsin needs its linebackers to tackle well in this game, but the Badgers can't lose sight of Dalton, who has underrated mobility and can attack down the field.

OK, Bennett, prediction time. You first.

BB: Wisconsin is awfully good, and I fear that TCU will eventually succumb to all that size. But these Horned Frogs know how to win, and I get the feeling they're very motivated to prove something on this stage. The TCU defense comes up with some key turnovers, speed trumps strength and the Horned Frogs make the Rose Bowl a non-AQ house, 30-27.

AR: This should be a great game, and it could go either way. I just don't think TCU has seen anything like Wisconsin this season. The Badgers' power and style of play is unique in college football, and ultimately, Wisconsin will wear down the frogs. Dalton keeps TCU in the game and makes several big plays with both his arm and his feet, but Wisconsin uses a big fourth quarter to secure the win. Badgers 30, Frogs 27.

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