- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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PASADENA, Calif. -- Greetings from football paradise. No one should ever complain about being at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
It should be about 60 degrees at kickoff, with a few clouds but otherwise a typically beautiful setting as Wisconsin takes on Stanford.
You get to this point, after a month of buildup and a week or so of pregame news conferences, and there's not a lot more to say about the game. The Badgers are a pretty healthy underdog, rightly so after an 8-5 season. No one really knows how the coaching change will affect them. We do know this: This team should be as healthy as it's been all season, and with Joel Stave back and Curt Phillips starting, it now has two experienced quarterbacks who have made big plays for really the first time all season. I continue to believe that quarterback play will be huge today, because Wisconsin is going to have a hard time beating that Stanford defense without more balance than it showed late in the season.
Interim coach/Rose Bowl legend Barry Alvarez focused on shorter practices leading up to the game to help keep the players' legs fresh, and even canceled the final practice in California in favor of a walk-through. We'll see if that makes any difference for a team that went through an emotional grind in December.
The Barry factor will be fascinating to watch. Every Wisconsin fan would agree that his team is in better shape in terms of game and clock management with Alvarez calling the shots instead of Bret Bielema. Of course, Alvarez hasn't coached a game in seven years. Do you get rusty after that sort of layoff? Or is it just in his DNA? Alvarez has said he'll let the coordinators do all the heavy lifting, and he'll just make big-picture decisions. But I also know I would pay to be in the locker room for his pregame speech.
We also get a chance to see Montee Ball one last time. It would be nice to see the touchdown king have a big final performance.
While the game doesn't have a ton of significance for the Badgers, since they'll have a new coach and mostly new staff tomorrow morning, they sure don't want to endure a third consecutive Rose Bowl loss.
We're about to find out if Wisconsin can do something about that.
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