Rose Bowl: Three keys for Wisconsin

January, 1, 2012
Let's take a look at three keys for Wisconsin against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO:

1. Red zone efficiency: This wouldn't seem to be an issue for the Badgers, who converted 67 of their 70 red zone chances into points this season, second best in the nation. But the memory of last season's Rose Bowl loss -- when Wisconsin had to settle for two field goals after reaching the TCU 20 and failed on a two-point conversion try -- still lingers. You need touchdowns and not field goals against Oregon. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst went away from what Wisconsin does best in last season's game, and the Badgers must maintain their smash-mouth identity this time, especially near the goal line.

2. Weather the storm: Oregon is going to rip off some big plays. The Ducks are likely going to put together a quick-strike scoring drives. Wisconsin's defense has to be able to regroup right away when that happens, because that's when things can start to spiral away for Oregon's opponents. The Badgers have a done a great job this year of making in-game adjustments, especially in the third quarter. The way they bounced back after heart-breaking losses to Michigan State and Ohio State and how they battled to erase a deficit in the Big Ten championship game shows this team can fight through adversity. The defense must keep that attitude. One or two big plays won't spell doom, but more than a handful might.

3. Dominate third -- and fourth -- down: It's simple yet vital to this game. The Badgers have to get Oregon's offense off the field whenever they have a chance, and that will mean not allowing third-and-long conversions. The Ducks' pace will slow down if they get off schedule in down and distance. It's not just third down, though, because Oregon went for it on fourth down 30 times this year, more than all but three FBS teams. Wisconsin has to be ready for that and to use its experience playing in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten to its advantage in short-yardage situations. Conversely, Bret Bielema's offense needs to convert its third downs as often as possible to keep the chains and the clock moving. When Ohio State beat the Ducks two years ago in Pasadena, it converted 11-of-21 third downs and held Oregon to just 2-of-11 on the same stat.



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