Friday, December 31, 2010
Rose Bowl: TCU (12-0) vs. Wisconsin (11-1)
By Brian Bennett
TCU is putting the purple in Pasadena. The Horned Frogs muscled their way into the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO as the first non-AQ team to make it here in the BCS era. They have seemed focused all week and determined to put on a good show. But Wisconsin presents a -- literally -- huge challenge.
WHO TO WATCH: Quarterback Andy Dalton. A four-year starter, Dalton has won 41 games in his career. But his last lost came in last year's Fiesta Bowl against Boise State, when he threw three interceptions. Dalton aims to atone for that performance, and it's safe to say TCU has little chance to win unless he has a great game. The Horned Frogs defense will likely give up more points than it's used to surrendering against Wisconsin's steamrolling offense, so it will be on Dalton to make sure TCU keeps up on the scoreboard.
WHAT TO WATCH: The trenches. There might not be a more fascinating bowl matchup this year than Wisconsin's supersized offensive line vs. TCU's athletic, diet-friendly defense. The Horned Frogs are fast enough to fill every gap, but do they have the strength to stand up to the Badgers' big boys? The other side is just as interesting, as TCU's underrated offensive line headlined by Rimington winner Jake Kirkpatrick and mammoth tackle Marcus Cannon go against a Wisconsin front four featuring star defensive end J.J. Watt. This is one game where watching the ball might mean you're missing the most interesting stuff.
WHY WATCH: It's the Grandaddy of Them All, and there's no better sight in college football than the Rose Bowl at dusk. On top of that, this is actually a marquee showdown of two Top 5 teams. TCU could stake a claim to the national title if it finishes 13-0, and the Horned Frogs are well aware that there is some non-AQ pride on the line. There are enticing individual matchups all over the field between conference and national award winners, plus the classic speed vs. power angle. What more could a football fan want from a bowl game?
PREDICTION: Wisconsin is a powerful, proven Big Ten champion, while TCU must overcome the size disadvantage. But don't discount A) the Horned Frogs' athleticism and B) their will to win. This is a team that has won its past 25 regular-season games and is motivated to reverse last year's BCS result. They will need to play a nearly-perfect game, but I think they will in a 30-27 victory.