Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Wisconsin take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Wisconsin evolved into one of the nation’s most dominating teams down the stretch, and the Badgers were rewarded with their first trip to Pasadena in 11 seasons as they face TCU in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.
Bret Bielema’s team won its final seven regular-season games and destroyed everything in its path, averaging 48.3 points during the streak and combining for 201 points in its final three games. A veteran and talented offensive line led the way, creating room for backs James White, Montee Ball and John Clay and buying time for quarterback Scott Tolzien to attack downfield with the play-action game. Arguably the only downside for red-hot Wisconsin is the five-week layoff between the end of the regular season and the Rose Bowl.
The Badgers’ offense likely faces its toughest test of the season in a TCU defense that leads the nation in fewest points allowed and ranks third against the run. If TCU can contain Wisconsin on first and second downs and force Tolzien into some obvious passing situations, the Badgers could be in trouble. As good as Tolzien has been, he hasn’t faced the type of pressure TCU might provide on Jan. 1.
Wisconsin’s defense isn’t dominant like TCU’s, but the Badgers are opportunistic, recording 23 takeaways. TCU hasn’t faced a defensive end as disruptive as Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, who made more impact plays than any Big Ten defender and needs to heat up Horned Frogs star quarterback Andy Dalton.
TCU take by nation blogger Andrea Adelson: Well, the Horned Frogs really, really wanted to be that first non-AQ to get into a BCS national championship game, but hey, playing in the Rose Bowl is not exactly settling. They are making their second straight BCS appearance after a second straight undefeated regular season, a tremendous accomplishment under coach Gary Patterson. A big reason TCU is back on the big stage: experience. TCU returned a majority of their starters, including Andy Dalton, selected Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year. But if TCU has any shot to win, he is going to have to have a better game than the one he had last year against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Dalton threw three interceptions in that game, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and the offense could manage little in the way of production.
They are better at running back this season with the tandem of Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker, and Jeremy Kerley is one of the best all-purpose players in the country. TCU has the No. 1 ranked defense in the country for the third straight season, and that is impressive considering the Horned Frogs lost their two best players in Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington. The heart of the defense is with linebackers Tank Carder and Tanner Brock, but the leader is safety Tejay Johnson. Runners beware against this defensive front.