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The Rose Bowl is always one of the most anticipated bowl games of the year and there are some unique storylines setting the stage for an interesting match-up this year. Stanford and Wisconsin have similar styles of play and both teams have gone through different quarterbacks this season while still delivered successful results. Here is a look at Tuesday’s Rose Bowl and the history between these teams.
Matchup: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Stanford Cardinal
Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Time/TV: 5:00 PM ET – ESPN
Line: Stanford -6, Over/Under 47
Last Meeting: 2000, Wisconsin (-14) 17-9

This year’s Rose Bowl won’t have a big impact on the top of the national polls and with neither of these teams were ever in national title contention as this year’s game lacks some of its normal cachet. The Big Ten certainly had a down year in part due to probation for two of the better teams in the conference, which allowed Wisconsin to advance to the Big Ten championship despite being just 4-4 in conference play. Oregon was the national title contender for the Pac-12 but the Ducks could not even win their own division after being upset by this Stanford team.

Most expected Stanford to struggle last season with Jim Harbaugh leaving the program for the NFL but David Shaw guided the Cardinal to an 11-2 season with an overtime loss in the Fiesta Bowl. Most called for a decline again this season with #1 NFL draft pick Andrew Luck among others no longer on the team but the Cardinal have a chance to match last season’s record and Stanford returns to the Rose Bowl for the first time since after the 1999 season. In that game Stanford lost but covered as a heavy underdog against Wisconsin.

That was a Wisconsin Rose Bowl team led by Barry Alvarez and featuring Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne. Alvarez retired a few years later but he remained at the university eventually as the athletic director. With the surprising move of Bret Bielema taking the Arkansas job, Alvarez will be back on the sidelines, going for his fourth Rose Bowl victory as a head coach. It took the urging of his players to accept that challenge and as the A.D. it may have been in part a shrewd move to boost ticket sales and interest for Badgers fans as well. There was certainly limited interest for many to make a third straight trip to Pasadena, especially after an underwhelming 7-5 campaign. Many of the assistants for Wisconsin will run the show but most of the staff will be heading elsewhere after this game as former Utah State head Coach Gary Andersen has been hired to take over the program.

Quarterbacks will also be a focal point in this game. Wisconsin opened the season with Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien at the helm but his struggles prompted a move to redshirt freshman Joel Stave. Stave showed some promise but he was injured and senior Curt Phillips led the team in the final weeks. Phillips is expected to start but expect Stave to run the offense in a few series as he has more potential in the passing game. Phillips did his part in the Big Ten championship but he has only completed 36 passes all season.

Junior Josh Nunes opened the season as the starting quarterback for Stanford. He helped the team score a big early-season upset over USC but the Cardinal would lose two of the next three games. Sitting at 6-2 Stanford opted to switch to redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan and the Cardinal have not lost since, stunning Oregon to win the North Division and taking out UCLA in back-to-back weeks to win the Pac-12. Hogan has thrown nine touchdowns and just three interceptions but more importantly he adds a mobility dimension that has made Stanford a much more imposing offensive team.

Overall these teams have pretty similar numbers statistically and both teams focus their efforts on the ground. Wisconsin rushes over 45 times per game and Stanford runs nearly 40 times per game. Wisconsin has been the more productive team, gaining 6.0 yards per play but the numbers are skewed with a few big blowout wins weighing heavily. Defensively Wisconsin also has a slight edge in the statistics but the Pac-12 certainly rated as a tougher league and Stanford also had to play #1 Notre Dame.

Close games defined both of these teams as Wisconsin’s five losses came by a combined total of 19 points with three of those losses coming in overtime. Stanford meanwhile had seven wins by seven or fewer points including two overtime wins. In a match-up of teams with similar styles another tight Rose Bowl could be in order. Wisconsin has lost the last two years in the Rose Bowl under Bielema, losing by seven last season against Oregon and by two against TCU two years ago.

Line Movement: Stanford opened as a 6½-point favorite and in early December the line did jump up to -7. In recent days the numbers has fallen down to -6. The total was steady at 47½ for several weeks but has recently slipped to 47.
Last Meeting: On New Year’s Day 2000 Wisconsin beat Stanford 17-9 in the Rose Bowl in a defensive battle. It was Wisconsin’s second straight Rose Bowl, though they did not cover as a heavy favorite.
Series History: These teams have played three times in the last 30 years with a tie in early season non-conference play in 1995 and Wisconsin winning the two more recent meetings including the Rose Bowl after the 1999 season.
Wisconsin Historical Trends: Wisconsin has been a capable underdog, going 29-20-1 ATS since 1999. Barry Alvarez has a strong 8-3 bowl record in his career, though this is a unique situation. Wisconsin is 29-11-1 ATS since 1991 as an underdog of six or more points but they are just 2-5 in the last seven instances.
Stanford Historical Trends: The Cardinal has excelled in the favorite role with a 29-15 ATS mark since 2008 when laying points. Stanford is 9-3 ATS in the last 12 instances as a favorite away from home as the great recent numbers are not solely built on the great home field edge. David Shaw did lose in his only bowl game last season, a wild 41-38 loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl last year.

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