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Build play-action: The Badgers' offense is no secret, regardless of who's calling the plays. They're going to run straight at Stanford, even though its front seven has demonstrated its excellence at defending the run. This is why Wisconsin needs to build the play-action and get receivers Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen involved. Both can help stretch Stanford's defense to open holes for the three-headed rushing attack.
Trust Phillips: The fifth-year senior who began the season as the third-string quarterback, fought back from three knee surgeries and finally started his first game with three games left in the regular season and the division title in doubt. Although the play calling was rather conservative, especially with the abundance of running backs, Phillips showed glimpses of what once made him a highly recruited dual-threat QB. Alvarez needs to slacken the reins on Phillips and let him throw the ball against Stanford's 83rd-ranked pass defense (251 ypg).
Motivation: Not many coaches have the gall to leave a team that's earned three straight Rose Bowl trips, but that's what Bielema did when he went to Arkansas. Part of the reason Bielema left was because he thought he had a better chance to win a championship coming out of the SEC. Senior leaders Taylor and Phillips requested that Alvarez coach the team in the wake of Bielema's departure, and now they all have an added incentive to win in Pasadena.
The Rose Bowl was shaping up as a fairly nondescript matchup with Pac-12 champion Stanford squaring off against a five-loss Wisconsin squad. Then the Badgers unwittingly added some juice and an intriguing subplot to the "The Granddaddy of Them All" when coach Bret Bielema accepted a job at Arkansas, prompting former Wisconsin coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez to return to the sideline on New Year's Day. Alvarez took Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl three times - and won them all.
* Badgers are 0-5 ATS in their last five non-conference games.
* Cardinal are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 non-conference games.
* Under is 5-2 in Badgers' last seven bowl games.
* Over is 19-7 in Cardinal's last 26 vs. a team with a winning record.
It will be strength against strength in a no-frills, grind-it-out affair between two of the only three schools to be playing in a BCS bowl game for the third straight season. The Badgers rely on a powerhouse ground game led by touchdown machine Montee Ball, the Doak Walker Award winner as the nation's top running back. Stanford counters with a rugged defense that is ranked third nationally against the run with an average of 87.7 yards allowed per game.
The lone difference between the teams is the Cardinal are more likely to defer to a passing game featuring All-America tight end Zach Ertz, who has 66 receptions for 837 yards and sixtouchdowns. Quarterback Kevin Hogan, who started the past four games, is the `X' factor with 973 yards passing and nine touchdowns.
Wisconsin will counter with a big defensive line and linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, who lead the Badgers with 120 and 95 tackles, respectively.
"Their two defensive tackles are 330 pounds," Ertz said. "We haven't seen that really. Those two guys up front will be a good challenge for our guys, and I think that's something that we're looking forward to."
Alvarez is seeking history. He can match Ohio State legend Woody Hayes with four Rose Bowl wins, most by a Big Ten coach. USC's Howard Jones and John McKay top the list with fivewins.
"I really don't pay much attention to that," Alvarez said. "I'd really like to see these guys play well and have a chance to win the football game because they've been through so much.
"But this is the Rose Bowl. I still get chills thinking about it, and any time I take the field, and I've said this probably many, many times, there's nothing like taking the field at the Rose Bowl. It's the most beautiful venue in all of sport. I think I'll be just as thrilled as the first time I took it when I take the field this time."
While Wisconsin went 8-5, eighth-ranked Stanford carries a seven-game winning streak into the Rose Bowl, highlighted by a dramatic victory at then-No. 1 Oregon to dash the Ducks' national championship hopes. The Cardinal have not tasted defeat since an overtime loss at BCS Championship Game finalist Notre Dame on Oct. 13. They beat four ranked opponents to close the season, including UCLA twice. The Badgers, who are playing in Pasadena for the third straight season, beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl following the 1999 season.
Can Phillips be a difference-maker? A fifth-year senior who hadn't played in three years, the 6-foot-3, 214-pound quarterback was a modest 36-of-65 for 457 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in four games. He'll need to protect the ball and use play-action opportunities to connect with receiver Jared Abbrederis or tight end Jacob Pedersen.
Orange Bowl: Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Florida State Seminoles
Sharp money backed Northern Illinois early at the +15.5 opening number and kept coming through the +14.5 to +14 values. At the current Florida State -13 line, the public has come in hard buying back the early sharp money position. Currently, the money is very balanced at this juncture but the bet count is leaning in favor of Florida State due to the public betting affection they are receiving.