Who: Stanford Cardinal (11-2) vs Wisconsin Badgers (8-5)
Where: Goin' Back To Cali
When: New Year's Day, 5 PM EST
Line: Cardinal by 5
Ross: What's red and white and likes to run all over you? Uh… both of these teams. RB Stepfan Taylor led the way for Stanford with 1442 yards and 12 TD (although the Cardinal only ranked 50th nationally in rushing offense, with 173 ypg), while Montee Ball (1730 yards, 21 TD) and James White (802 yards, 12 TD) led the way for a potent Badger ground game (238 ypg, 12th nationally). In the Wisconsin ground game versus the Stanford run defense, though, we get a classic battle of the unstoppable force versus the immovable object: Stanford held teams to 88 ypg on the ground this year, 3rd nationally. If they do that in this game, they will win handily. Wisconsin also had a solid run defense, though — they held teams to 124 ypg, 22nd nationally. Neither Stanford nor Wisconsin boasts much in the way of a passing attack — Stanford ranked 94th nationally (204 ypg) and Wisconsin ranked 116th nationally (163 ypg) and each team had only one receiver who racked up more than 500 receiving yards (Jared Abbrederis had 744 yards and 5 TD for Wisconsin; Zach Ertz had 837 yards and 6 TD for Stanford). Both teams also cycled through several quarterbacks; Stanford used both Kevin Hogan and Josh Nunes, while Wisconsin had three passers attempt at least 60 passes: Joel Stave, Danny O'Brien, and Curt Phillips. These teams have rather different records, but the main difference between these two teams might be their record in close games. In games decided by 7 points or less, Wisconsin was 2-5 this year (and 4 of those 5 losses were by 3 points), while Stanford was an astonishing 7-2 this year. But for a few plays either way, things could have changed significantly for both of these teams. The biggest X-factor in this game is the presence of Wisconsin legend Barry Alvarez as the Badger head coach for this game. There's no consistent trend when it comes to teams playing in bowl games without the head coach who led them through the regular season; sometimes his absence is a major distraction and confidence-killer that leads to a terrible performance, and sometimes his departure galvanizes a team and boosts confidence, leading to a great performance. The latter tends to happen when the interim coach is a particularly beloved assistant coach. Alvarez wasn't an assistant coach under former head coach Bret Bielema, but he certainly seems to be very beloved, judging by several stories out of Madison in the last month. He's also got a 3-0 record in Rose Bowls, so he's done this rodeo before — and done it well. I think these two teams are closer in quality than they appear at first blush and I think the presence of Alvarez will motivate the Badgers to a strong showing here.