Wisconsin And Oregon In Classic Rose Bowl Battle
The Rose Bowl matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Oregon Ducks appears to be a classic battle between power and speed.
ESPN will have the January 2 broadcast at 5:00 p.m. (ET) from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. This is a traditional pairing between the Big Ten and Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10).
Don Best has Oregon as solid 6-point favorites after opening at 4½. The big total of 72 points is the result of matching the nation’s third-ranked offense in Oregon (46.2 PPG) against fourth-ranked Wisconsin (44.6 PPG). The ‘over’ is 9-4 for each team this season.
The Ducks (11-2 straight up, 7-5-1 against the spread) are ranked No. 5 in the BCS, the highest among two-loss teams and even ahead of 1-loss Boise State.
Coach Chip Kelly’s guys lost to Auburn (22-19) in the national title game last year and were ranked No. 3 in the preseason AP Poll. The Ducks were actually 3-point favorites in the season opener against LSU, but went down 40-27 in a game played at Cowboys Stadium in Texas.
Oregon could have gotten down on itself, but buckled down by winning 9-straight (6-2-1 ATS). That included a signature 53-30 win at Stanford. A shocking 38-35 home loss to USC as 15-point favorites ended its national title hopes, but finished with wins over Oregon State (49-21) and UCLA (49-31), although going 0-1-1 ATS.
This spread attack offense has extremely fast athletes and plays up-tempo. Running back LaMichael James (1,646 yards) is fourth in the country in rushing and Kenjon Barner (909) is also dangerous. Junior quarterback Darron Thomas (30 TDs, six picks) is underrated as a passer and spreads it around to backs, receivers and tight ends.
The Badgers rank eighth nationally in defense (293 YPG), but are not very fast and could easily get worn down in the second half. They also haven’t faced an offense anywhere near as potent as Oregon.
BCS No. 10 Wisconsin (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS) is in its second-straight Rose Bowl after beating Michigan State 42-39 in the inaugural Big Ten title game on December 3. That was a back-and-forth affair and a lucky escape as 9½-point favorites.
The Badgers are an offensive juggernaut in their own right. Quarterback Russell Wilson is second nationally in quarterback rating (191.6) behind Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. He’s a very good scrambler, always keeping his eyes down the field, and that will come in handy against the nation’s co-leader in sacks (43).
Coach Bret Bielema knows he has a gem in Wilson, but this offense is still predominately run-based (237.4 YPG, 10th nationally). Junior Montee Ball (1,759 yards) leads the nation in rushing and his 38 total touchdowns are just one short of Barry Sanders record set in 1988.
Ball has been used more as the season has progressed, 26.6 average carries the last five games after 17.8 in the first eight. The Heisman finalist is well rested and Wisky will use its huge offensive line to pound an Oregon run defense that’s allowing 137.5 YPG (45th nationally).
Oregon’s pass defense does allow 243.5 YPG (82nd nationally) and got burned by Matt Barkley (323 yards, four TDs) in the USC loss, but Wisconsin running the ball will help consume clock and limit Oregon’s possessions. Bielema needs to stay patient with the run even if down 10-14 points.
Wisconsin has been incredible at home (7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS) but is just 4-2 SU and 1-5 ATS in road and neutral site games. That includes consecutive losses at Michigan State (37-31) and Ohio State (33-29) in November that ended the Badgers' national title hopes.
This will be the final Wisconsin-coached game for offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who has accepted the job at Pittsburgh. Offensive line coach Bob Bostad is rumored to be joining him, but it shouldn’t affect preparations.
Wisconsin has some good injury news with All-American center Peter Konz (ankle) upgraded to probable after missing the last three games.
Both coaches are under a lot of pressure. Bielema is 1-3 SU in his last four bowls including losing 21-19 to TCU in the Rose Bowl last year. Kelly is 0-2 SU and ATS in bowls, losing to Ohio State (26-17) in the Rose Bowl two years ago before the BCS title game last year.
Note the Don Best Linemakers Poll feels there is little separating these teams. Oregon (119.0) ranks fourth and Wisconsin sixth (118.6). That poll has been high on the Badgers all year and suggest they are good value as the almost touchdown ‘dog.
Weather in beautiful Pasadena is projected to be partly cloudy and should be played in the low-70s, upper-60s.