Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/1/12
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The war for the roses will be decided on Jan. 2, when the Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks take on the champions of the Big-10, Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams are coming off their conferences inaugural championship games after both conferences went through the expansion process.

Entering the game both teams have an 11-2 record and rank in the nation’s top -5 scoring offenses. No. 6 Oregon ranks third nationally with its average of 46.2 points per game and the No. 10  Badgers rank fifth (44.6).

The running game could be the key for both squads with each team having a Doak Walker Award winner — Montee Ball (2011) and LaMichael James (2010). This season’s Heisman Trophy finalist, Ball is having one of the most impressive scoring seasons for any running back in FBS history. His 32 touchdowns rank second all-time. He also finished with 1,759 yards on the ground.

Oregon’s James was not invited to the Heisman Ceremony in New York City for the second consecutive year despite leading the nation in rushing yards per game (149.6) and having four 200-yard rushing games including a stretch of three in a row before dislocating his elbow against Cal on Oct. 6 — an injury that caused James to sit out two games.

James still continues to state that he will not make a decision about declaring for the NFL Draft until after this game.

“I’m not going to think about that ’til next week. I have to talk about things like with my family, but right now the best thing for me is looking forward to playing a great team like Wisconsin,” he said. “My teammates, they come out here and practice hard each and every day, and so do the coaches. For me to come out here and say, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about going to the NFL right now,’ that’s totally selfish of me, and I’m not going to do that.”

The advantage in the running back may not rely on the backs themselves but the size advantage that the Wisconsin offensive line has on Oregon’s defensive line. The Badgers’ offensive line out weights the Ducks by an average of over 50 pounds.

"They've got a lot of weapons, not just that big, strong offensive line," Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly said. "I'm a big fan of Russell at North Carolina State, and then what he did in his only year at Wisconsin. You're probably going against the best quarterback-running back combination in college football."

The passing game should not be overlooked. Russell Wilson and Darron Thomas rank one and two for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

Wilson leads the country in passer rating (191.6) and ranks in the top-10 in passing touchdowns with 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He also completed nearly 73 percent of his passes over the season.

Thomas also had a 30-touchdown season but he through six interceptions. His passing ability helped showcase the skill set of freshman sensation, De’Anthony Thomas, who leads all freshman in scoring and is the only player in the country with more then 400 yards rushing, receiving and kick returning.

"Their offense is very unique in what they do and the speed in what they play in, so it will be a challenge," Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema said when asked about Oregon’s high-paced offense. "Their normal no-huddle is a very fast paced up-tempo, then they have another extremely quick one in which they catch defenses offsides, it's a very difficult situation.

The Ducks bowl history has not been a memorable one for Oregon fans and the Rose Bowl has not been an exception. The Ducks are 1-4 in the Rose Bowl and they have lost the last four appearances after winning in 1917 — the 3rd Annual Rose Bowl. In the team’s most recent appearance they lost to Ohio State in 2010, 26-17.

Oregon is the only team in the country playing in a third-consecutive BCS bowl game.

Kelly said that he does not need to win this game to bounce back from the losses in the two previous bowl appearances.

"We don't look to what transpired in the past to be motivation of where we go in the future," he said. "I think every year each team is different, and there are a lot of players that played on our '09 team against a good Ohio State team that aren't here any longer. We lost 23 or 24 seniors from last year's team that played in the national championship, so I think every year's different."

The Badgers, who fell short in last year’s game against TCU, enter the game with a 3-4 Rose Bowl record winning in three of the last four appearances — including winning back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1999 and 2000.

Wisconsin leads the all-time series between the two teams with a 3-1 advantage, with Oregon’s only win coming in the most recent meeting in 2001, 31-28.

The game will be aired on ABC at 4:30 p.m. EST.
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