NCF Nation: Rose Bowl 2012

PASADENA, Calif. -- Above each player's locker is a name plate that slides in and out. Following the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio Tuesday night, Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson stood on his chair, slid his name plate out and stuck it in his backpack.

He wanted to remember the Rose Bowl.

It’s a far cry from where Williamson was 364 days ago. A day that was, for lack of kinder words, forgettable. In that locker room in Glendale, Ariz., Williamson sat in a corner, alone, and sobbing uncontrollably into a towel. A missed field goal at the end of regulation and a missed field goal in overtime were contributing factors in Stanford’s 41-38 loss to Oklahoma State. Actually, he was just 1-of-4 kicking on that disappointing day -- which included a 35-yarder with three seconds left in the game.

[+] EnlargeJordan Williamson
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesJordan Williamson's two field goals were critical in Stanford's Rose Bowl win.
But Tuesday night, he nailed a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter and drilled a 22-yarder in the fourth quarter. Six points, it turned out, were the difference in Stanford’s 20-14 win over Wisconsin.

“It was definitely a long road,” said Williamson. “I wouldn’t have been able to come full circle without these teammates and all the support I was given. I’m glad they kept the faith in me and let me kick. The team played great. Couldn’t have done it without these guys. The defense stepped up and did what they did. They were clutch.”

Last year, everyone wanted to talk to Williamson. But he wouldn’t talk, couldn't talk. Instead, a nameless Stanford offensive linemen who happened to go in the first round of the NFL draft and now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers -- we won’t say who -- used some colorful language to a reporter who tried to approach Williamson. (No, it wasn’t me).

Tuesday night, Williamson sat alone again. Only this time there were no reporters hounding him. He was just there, despite a 2-for-2 performance. Welcome to the life of a kicker.

“It’s something you get used to and I didn’t realize how it was until I got here and went through all of the situations,” Williamson said. “I’ve learned to embrace it.”

If this was the final stop on Williamson's road to redemption then the critical step came when he hit a 37-yard field goal at Oregon in overtime. That kick gave the Cardinal a 17-14 win over the nation's top team at the time.

“He’s grown up,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “He’s only a sophomore and he’s going to keep growing. He’s got so much talent. I’m watching him in warmups and he’s kicking the ball from 60 yards. And all I said to him all day was 'swing smooth.' That’s all he does. When he swings smooth, he can kick it from anywhere ... there was no doubt on those field goals. He put them through the pipes. And that’s our expectation for him and that’s his expectation for himself. He’s got the ability to be one of the best kickers in college football if he stays with it and hopefully he’s on that path.”

Video: Wisconsin LB Chris Borland

January, 2, 2013
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Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland talks about the Rose Bowl loss and the Badgers' future.

Video: Stanford in 2013

January, 2, 2013
1/02/13
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Kevin Gemmell offers his initial thoughts on where this Stanford team will be in the 2013 season.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Red, green and silver confetti covered the middle of the Rose Bowl field like a fresh coat of snow. Newly issued gray T-shirts that read, "Tree Mendous," strained to cover the shoulder pads of several Stanford players.

Cardinal coach David Shaw, encircled by security personnel, slowly made his way toward a stadium tunnel when he was stopped by a slightly gap-toothed woman in a red down jacket. They exchanged hugs.

"Great job," said Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State who now serves on the Stanford faculty.

Moments later, the Stanford band, which prides itself on being cool, on being above it all, began chanting, "Da-vid Shaw! Da-vid Shaw!"

This is what happens when a program that hasn't won a Rose Bowl in more than four decades, well, wins a Rose Bowl. Dignitaries appear. Players dance in confetti. Legacies begin to take form.

Click here to read the rest of Gene Wojciechowski's piece.

Cardinal win with Cardinal ball

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
11:30
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PASADENA, Calif. -- Beauty is in the eye of whichever team has more points at the end of the game. Beholder be damned.

This is 2012 Stanford football -- white knuckles and all. If you want pretty, the Getty Museum is on the other side of the 405.

Anyone expecting anything different in the 99th Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio probably hasn’t watched much Cardinal ball this season. Stanford did what it does best: get a lead, hold a lead and win the game in the fourth quarter. It was what guided Stanford (12-2) to a Pac-12 championship, and it’s what enabled the Cardinal to beat Wisconsin 20-14 on Tuesday night.

“We’re not built for style points and we don’t blow teams out,” said Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner, who tallied six tackles, including a critical stop on a Wisconsin fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. “It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight and this one was no different. It’s going to be a four-quarter game with us. Wisconsin played very hard. They didn’t make it easy on us. It’s one of those things where at each pivotal moment someone new stepped up and made a play.”

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsStanford limited Wisconsin running back Montee Ball to just 13 yards in the second half.
After jumping out to a 14-0 lead and a 17-14 halftime lead, the Cardinal defense pitched a second-half shutout -- holding the Badgers (8-6) to 82 total yards in the second half. Running back Montee Ball, the Doak Walker Award winner, rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown, but was held to just 13 yards in the second half.

“We pride ourselves on being able to drag teams into the deep water in the fourth quarter,” linebacker Chase Thomas said. “We’ve been there plenty of times. … We’re used to making the big stops when we have to. That’s how we’re built.”

Indeed. This is the 10th time this year Stanford has been involved in a game that was decided by a touchdown or less. And they’ve won eight of those.

“We were prepared for this,” said running back Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown. “We were ready for this kind of game. We’ve seen it before and we’re a mature enough team to be able to handle the close games.”

But it’s the Notre Dame game -- a 20-13 loss in overtime in South Bend on Oct. 13 (the last time Stanford lost) -- that head coach David Shaw singled out as the turning point for the season. You may remember a critical instant replay involving Taylor that didn’t go Stanford’s way at the end of that game.

“We could sit, sulk and think about what could have been,” Shaw said, recalling how he addressed the team. “Or we can say, 'From now on, we’re going to finish games. Don’t leave it up to officials. Finish games.' … That was kind of a galvanizing moment for us. We lost that game and it was so heartfelt and so devastating. It was right in front of us. We made a collective decision that we were not going to let games slip away from us. So we went on a tear. Eight games in a row. We kept the same mentality. We never got too high, we never got too low. That game really propelled us to this one.”

And now the Cardinal have their first Rose Bowl title since 1972 and their second victory in a BCS bowl game in the past three years. It would be three in a row except for a loss in overtime last year to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. Don’t think this win doesn’t wash a bit of the bad taste out of their mouths from last season.

“Oh yeah, more than a little bit,” Gardner said. “This is pretty darn sweet. We know what it’s like to be in tight games and we never had a doubt.”

Stanford has drawn comparisons to a Big Ten team for its physical style of play and run-first, stop-the-run mentality. And it was on full display Tuesday night -- much as it’s been all season.

“It’s football,” Shaw said. “It’s really, really physical football. There were guys that were tired. Every play you could hear the pads popping. It’s the kind of football that I grew up watching. And I’m proud that our guys played that style of football.”

Anything less wouldn’t be Stanford.
PASADENA, Calif. -- The Hollywood ending was all set up. Wisconsin, the underdog in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, would reverse its recent history here under the steady guidance of the old pro who'd come out of retirement for one last assignment.

The opening scene played out as you'd expect. Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez delivered a rousing pregame speech in the locker room, during which he told the players "Wisconsin invented physical."

"I have never seen a bunch of guys so excited," defensive lineman Brendan Kelly said. "I was so sure we were going to win this game."

But the Badgers' Rose Bowl appearances instead keep unreeling like an unimaginative sequel. For a third straight year, they came up short, this time 20-14 to Stanford. For a third straight year, they were unable to make a big play in the closing minutes. For a third straight year, they walked dejectedly off the field as confetti rained down on their opponents.

Oh, there were many different circumstances this year. Alvarez took over the team after Bret Bielema left and brought some swagger. Assistant coaches hugged each other at the end of the game, knowing they would be parting ways on Tuesday when Gary Andersen begins remaking the staff and the program. With an 8-6 final record, Wisconsin players had to listen to one obnoxious fan shout "O-H-I-O" and remind them that Ohio State had the better team this year as they trudged into the tunnel to their locker room.

[+] EnlargeDevin Smith and Wisconsin Badgers
AP Photo/Ben LiebenbergWisconsin has now lost its third straight Rose Bowl.
But those are just plot details. The ending remains unchanged.

"The immediate reaction is the same," linebacker Chris Borland said. "It's heartbreaking."

Wisconsin became the third team ever to lose three straight Rose Bowls, the first since Michigan did so from 1976-78. Each has brought its own set of painful memories. In 2010, a failed two-point conversion on a much-debated play call doomed the Badgers against TCU. Last year, some questionable clock management down the stretch left star quarterback Russell Wilson begging for an extra second at the Oregon 25 in a seven-point defeat.

This time, the Badgers had to play from behind the whole way after giving up two early touchdowns to Stanford, which broke out some new offensive wrinkles it hadn't shown on film. Wisconsin answered, though, with two second-quarter scores to slice the lead to 17-14. It seemingly had all the momentum after Curt Phillips' touchdown pass to Jordan Fredrick just 19 seconds before halftime.

But the Badgers would not score again in a second half where they managed only 82 total yards. There were opportunities, like a deep pass to the Cardinal red zone that Chase Hammond dropped before he got creamed by safety Jordan Richards. Wisconsin defensive backs missed a few chances to pick off Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan in his own territory.

Alvarez also chose to punt rather than go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Cardinal 46 near the end of the third quarter. It was an understandable decision, the way the Badgers defense was playing. But Wisconsin would never again have such good field position.

After Stanford earned some breathing room with a fourth-quarter field goal, the Badgers got one more possession, with a chance to drive for the winning touchdown.

"I felt like maybe we were a team of destiny," Alvarez said.

Phillips led the offense to the Stanford 49. Then, he looked for an out route to Jared Abbrederis, which was covered. He spotted Kenzel Doe on a crossing pattern; it wasn't open. On his third read, he tried to squeeze one in to tight end Jacob Pedersen but was intercepted by Usua Amanam with 2:03 to go.

Fin.

"The game was in our hands and we just didn't capitalize," said star running back Montee Ball, who ran for exactly 100 yards but only 13 in the second half. "It's extremely frustrating because we had this game."

The Badgers have said that a lot, not just in Pasadena but all season long. They lost six games this year by a combined 25 points, including three in overtime. We thought this Rose Bowl would look a lot like a Big Ten game because of Stanford's physical nature and similar style. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, it looked a lot like the Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State losses, right down to the similar score.

"Our whole offseason approach will be to take the mindset of finishing," Kelly said. "If we do that, we'll be an unbelievable team. But that's the last little attribute we need."

The program is about to go through a lot of changes with Andersen, who watched the game from the sidelines but mostly kept his distance the past few weeks. The Badgers will have to contend with surging and now bowl-eligible Ohio State in the Leaders Division. Even if they manage to make a fourth straight Rose Bowl appearance, they might not find as favorable an athletic matchup as this one was. Stanford might not have invented physical, but the Cardinal perfected it. And Wisconsin won't have a Hall of Famer on the sidelines.

"It was awesome to play for Coach Alvarez," Phillips said. "I just hate the fact that we couldn't get him another [Rose Bowl win]."

The Hollywood ending would have seen the Badgers carry Alvarez off on their shoulders in triumph. But this story is one that keeps repeating itself.

Taylor gains tough yards in Rose Bowl win

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
11:03
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AP Photo/David HoodSenior running back Stepfan Taylor and the Cardinal won their first Rose Bowl since 1972.
The Stanford Cardinal defeated the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl Game Pres. by Vizio, their first Rose Bowl win since January 1, 1972. Below is a look at how the Cardinal won their eighth straight game and why the Badgers' loss continued a discouraging trend for the Big Ten:

• Stepfan Taylor gained 50 of his team-high 88 rush yards after first contact in the Rose Bowl, including 32 of his 39 yards in the fourth quarter. It was his most yards after contact in the fourth quarter of any game this season and thanks to his touchdown in the first quarter, Taylor scored on the ground in five of Stanford’s final six games of the season.

• Stanford allowed a season-high 119 yards on carries inside the tackles in the first half against Wisconsin (5.4 yds per rush), including 76 yards on inside runs by Montee Ball. The second half was a different story, however, as Wisconsin gained just 13 yards up the middle and averaged just 1.4 yards per carry including just eight yards by Ball.

• With the loss, Wisconsin became the third team all-time and the first since Michigan from 1976-78 to lose the Rose Bowl in three consecutive seasons. The Badgers’ run is part of a stretch that has seen the Big Ten lose nine of its last 10 Rose Bowl appearances. The only Big Ten team to win a Rose Bowl during that span was Ohio State on January 1, 2010 against Oregon.

• Stanford did much of its damage on first down against Wisconsin, gaining an average of 8.2 yards per play and scoring both of its touchdowns on first down in the game.

The 8.2 yards per play marked the second-highest first-down average for the Cardinal in a game this season (8.5 versus Arizona) and was the most allowed per play by Wisconsin in a game since it gave up 11.5 to Oregon in last season’s Rose Bowl.

• Ball’s performance was not forgotten in the defeat as he rushed for 100 yards for the 10th time this season (tied for second most in FBS) and scored the last of his FBS-record 83 career touchdowns.

The Rose Bowl marked Ball’s 26th-career game in which he rushed for at least 100 yards and scored a rushing touchdown, most in the FBS since his freshman year of 2009. With the score, Ball also became the first player in history to score a touchdown in three separate Rose Bowls.

Video: Stanford safety Jordan Richards

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
10:56
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Stanford safety Jordan Richards talks about the team's win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

PASADENA, Calif. -- A nip-and-tuck defensive battle was expected in the 99th edition of the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio. And neither Stanford nor Wisconsin disappointed as the Cardinal downed the Badgers 20-14. Here's how it all went down in Pasadena:

It was over when: Stanford’s Usua Amanam recorded the first turnover of the game when he intercepted Wisconsin’s Curt Phillips with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Turning point: An interference penalty while Drew Terrell attempted to fair-catch a punt gave the Cardinal great field position with about 10 minutes left in the game. The drive resulted in a 22-yard field goal from Jordan Williamson and a 20-14 Stanford lead.

Game ball goes to: While this certainly wasn’t the cleanest game for Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan (12-of-19, 123 yards), he kept plays alive with his feet, rushing for 54 yards on seven carries, and he didn’t turn the ball over. As we saw, even one turnover can make the difference.

Unsung hero: After taking quite a beating following last season’s Fiesta Bowl, Williamson turned in a solid performance, hitting field goals of 47 and 22 yards.

What it means for Stanford: It’s a bit of good news for the Pac-12, which has had a disappointing bowl season. The Cardinal, playing in their third BCS bowl game in as many years, get to wash away a bit of the bad taste from last season’s Fiesta Bowl loss.

What it means for Wisconsin: The Badgers now are 0-for-their past three Rose Bowls, and the Big Ten has won just one Rose Bowl Game since 2000. It also caps a disappointing day for the conference, which saw Michigan, Nebraska and Purdue all go down.

Rose Bowl pregame ponderables

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
4:10
PM ET
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.

Video: Rose Bowl preview

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
3:44
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Kevin Gemmell and Brian Bennett set the stage for the Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin keys for the Rose Bowl

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
10:50
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Three keys for Wisconsin in today's Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio:

1. Open it up: Wisconsin is Wisconsin, so of course the Badgers are going to do everything they can to run the ball. But even their offensive line is going to have trouble simply lining up and ramming the ball down Stanford's throat. The Cardinal are one of the most physical, fundamentally sound teams in the country and had the third-best run defense in the FBS. Wisconsin does not want to get into third-and-long situations in this game, because that's when Stanford -- which led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss -- can really wreak havoc. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada drew up a dynamic, diverse game plan for the Big Ten championship game and will need to do so again to keep the Cardinal guessing. Is there anything left in the playbook after that Nebraska game? "There's always more left," Canada said last week. "We can draw up plays for days and days." It's quite likely that quarterback Curt Phillips will have to make more plays and probably will have to throw more than the eight pass attempts he had against the Huskers. And Joel Stave, now healthy, could factor in as well. Wisconsin's bread and butter remains the running game, with Montee Ball, James White and X factor Melvin Gordon. But the Badgers will likely need more than that to solve the Stanford defense.

2. Stop Stepfan: Stanford's offense is more than just running back Stepfan Taylor. The emergence of Kevin Hogan at quarterback late in the season made the Cardinal more multidimensional, and you have to always watch out for their tight ends, especially Zach Ertz. But Taylor is still the engine that drives the offense, and Wisconsin would much rather see Hogan throw the ball around than deal with Stanford's powerful running game all day. The good news: The Badgers were very good against the run this year as well, ranking 22nd in the nation in stopping the rush. They are stout in the middle of the defensive line, though star linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland will have their hands full with those tight ends. Wisconsin also does a good job of making opponents earn every yard down the field; in Big Ten play, opponents had only four total plays of 30 or more yards versus Chris Ash's defense. In Stanford's two losses, Taylor averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, more than a yard below his average. If the Badgers can make him work that hard for yards today, they will have a great chance.

3. Finish: Wisconsin knows all about coming up a play short in the Rose Bowl. A failed two-point conversion made the difference in a 21-19 loss to TCU two years ago, while last year's 45-38 setback against Oregon ended with Russell Wilson begging for another second on the Ducks' 25. But the Badgers don't even have to remember that far back to know close-game heartache. Of course, they lost four games by exactly three points, five by a total of 19 points and three in overtime. They probably would have lost every meaningful close game had Utah State made an easy field goal. It's highly unlikely that Wisconsin will blow out Stanford like it did against Nebraska, so any victory will probably have to include finishing off a close game for the first time since September. It doesn't help that the team's kicking game has been pretty bad; the Badgers were a Big Ten-worst 10-of-18 on field goals this year, and Kyle French missed key tries in the overtime losses to Ohio State and Penn State to end the regular season. But here is why Wisconsin fans have hope that a close game might finally go their way in Pasadena: Barry Alvarez will be making the late-game decisions.

GameDay Live: Rose Bowl

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
10:39
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com college football experts for the Rose Bowl presented by Vizio between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Stanford Cardinal.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 5 p.m. ET. See you there.

Stanford keys for Rose Bowl

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
10:30
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Three keys for Stanford in today’s Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio:

1. Be yourself: The Cardinal got to this point by doing what they do best -- dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and playing hard-nosed, power football. Offensively, it’s power left, power right, rinse, repeat. Once that’s been established on offense, the middle is usually nice and open for tight end Zach Ertz on the play-action passes. Sure, there may be a wrinkle or two, and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton might window dress a couple of things. But in the end, the Cardinal should feed Stepfan Taylor 20-25 times and let him do what he’s done exceptionally well for the past three seasons. Defensively, it’s stop the run first and foremost. That presents a challenge, considering Wisconsin is led by Montee Ball, the Doak Walker award winner, who rushed for 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns.

2. The Hogan factor: What Kevin Hogan has brought to the Stanford offense is the ability to make plays with his legs and move the pocket. While Taylor will get plenty of touches, Hogan’s feet enable the Cardinal to run more bootlegs and a read-option package that keeps defenses guessing. He won’t be the centerpiece of the running game -- nor should he be with Taylor and a capable stable backing him up. But don’t be surprised to see a handful of designed runs for Hogan. Plus, if something isn’t there downfield, you’ll probably see a few runs by Hogan that aren’t by design. He’s proven to be an apt scrambler and has a knack for picking up first downs.

3. Penetrate: One of the things that makes Stanford’s front seven so talented is that it can usually get pressure with just four defenders, which frees up the linebackers to either create tackles for a loss, sacks or wreak general havoc in the backfield. Plus, if the Cardinal are able to get penetration early without sending extra blitzers, it opens up the defensive playbook later in the game for stunts and blitzes that the Badgers haven’t seen yet. Stanford leads the nation with 56 sacks, which is the most of any team since the NCAA started keeping it as a team record in 2005. The less they can do without getting too exotic early, the better off they are. But if that four-man rush is established, the occasional blitz should keep the Badgers off balance.

Pregame: Rose Bowl

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
10:01
AM ET
Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)

Who to watch: The running backs. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball -- the Doak Walker award winner -- and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor -- a three-time 1,000-yard rusher -- are two of the best in the game. Both are the engines that make their respective machines go. Each team will work furiously to establish a running game. So while you are watching two of the elite running backs in the country, keep an eye on the lines as well -- because how each team’s big boys do will go a long way toward determining how the running backs do.

What to watch: For sure, the fourth quarter. These two teams have combined to play six overtime games, Stanford has had to overcome ties or deficits six times in the fourth quarter, and Wisconsin has lost all five of its games by a combined 19 points (four field goals and a touchdown). If this game is a microcosm of these teams’ seasons, then there should be high drama up until the final play.

Why to watch: Aside from the fact that it’s the Granddaddy, this game is oozing with subplots. You have Barry Alvarez making his return to coaching -- although for just one game. You have Stanford playing in its third consecutive BCS bowl game (Wisconsin as well, for that matter) even after the departure of Andrew Luck and a midseason quarterback change from Josh Nunes to Kevin Hogan. You have a Wisconsin team that some say backed into the Rose Bowl, and you have mirror teams with nearly identical philosophies.

Predictions: In case you missed it Tuesday morning, you can see the predictions from Pac-12 bloggers Kevin Gemmell and Ted Miller here. This is what the Big Ten bloggers are thinking.

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