After back-to-back victories over a strong UCLA squad to finish the regular season as Pac-12 champions, the Stanford Cardinal will represent the conference in the Rose Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers.
While Stanford hasn’t lost a game since Kevin Hogan took over under center five games ago, including four straight wins over ranked teams, the Badgers present some intriguing matchups to keep an eye on.
First of all, Stanford’s outstanding run defense, ranked third in the nation, will get one of its toughest tests of the season facing the Doak Walker award winner Montee Ball, who has tallied 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground this year.
Ball is a very solid, balanced back with great vision running behind a very large offensive line. The Stanford front seven will have to shut him down if they want to slow the Badgers on offense.
As good as Ball is on the ground, Wisconsin has struggled greatly through the air. Stanford’s young (though surprisingly impressive) secondary should have a relatively easy day against a passing attack that has used three different quarterbacks in 2012 and ranks last in the Big Ten.
On the other side of the ball, running back Stepfan Taylor will also have a tough test against a stout Badgers front seven that has only allowed 12 rushing touchdowns in 2012.
Taylor will need to work hard against Wisconsin to keep the ball moving on the ground and give Hogan some room to breath. Hogan, however, will likely have a good day, as his deceptive speed may give the Badgers defense fits.
The signal-caller will be facing a defense that has only intercepted eight passes all season. If he can keep an eye on senior defensive back Devin Smith, who has four of those eight picks, he should have no problems distributing the ball to his wide array of reliable receivers and tight ends.
The game kicks off at 2:00 PM Pacific Time, so be sure to tune in as this matchup promises to be an good one.