Yes, we know the Bret Bielema leaving situation and the impending coaching decision by Barry Alvarez (both for himself & for the program's future) are dominating the news cycle, but guess what? Wisconsin also is prepping for this little thing called their 3rd STRAIGHT ROSE BOWL!
With that in mind we've reached out a few of our foes in the blogging sense to get a better look at what's going on and to learn some more about the Stanford fans and team. We obliged the questions of Go Mighty Card yesterday, so make sure to check that out. Today we return the favor with our part 1 of Rose Bowl Opposition Q&A, so enjoy and thanks to Go Mighty Card.
MadTown Badgers: Stanford seems to maybe not get enough credit nationally in some circles, what do you attribute that to? Especially since this will be your 3rd straight BCS bowl game.
Go Mighty Card: Over the past three seasons Stanford has a record of 34-5, but most casual fans would be shocked to hear that. Stanford is overlooked because for the thirty-five years prior to this current run, the Cardinal ranged from mediocre to abysmal, and most people -- even the experts -- thought those breakthrough years of 2010 and '11 had only happened because of the convergence of a charismatic head coach (Jim Harbaugh) and a once-in-a-generation talent (Andrew Luck). People who were following closely knew that wasn't the case. We knew that the recruiting had actually improved after Harbaugh's departure, and we knew that the defense would be phenomenal this year. Now that Stanford is heading to its third straight BCS bowl game and a likely top-five ranking in 2013, perhaps people will start believing. Or maybe not. We could be having this same conversation at this time next year.
MTB: Do you expect any shenanigans out of the Stanford band at this one? I mean, they are kinda notorious and all….
GMC: Do you expect the sun to rise in the East? I'm actually not sure if the Band will be at the Rose Bowl. There was an "incident" last year involving "alcohol" and a small "fire." As a result, the University put the Band on double-secret probation and prohibited them from travelling to road games. It would be nice if they were granted a pardon and were allowed to come to the Rose Bowl, but I'm not sure if that will happen. If they're there, I think you count on some clever jabs sent USC's way, a mention about the Rose Bowl being a sort of home away from home for Stanford, and a dig at Cal, which hasn't played in the Rose Bowl since 1959. So yes, there will be shenanigans.
MTB: How big of a deal was it for David Shaw to make the change and QB and why did that happen in the first place?
GMC: Shaw's decision to sit Josh Nunes in favor of Kevin Hogan completely changed the season. Nunes won the job out of training camp, but there was a strong sense that Shaw only chose him because he had to. No one had really won the job, but since someone had to play quarterback, he picked Nunes. Nunes had some nice moments, specifically when the led Stanford to a win over Arizona after the Cardinal had trailed by 14 in the fourth quarter, but he was largely ineffective for the most part. Enter Hogan. Shaw announced before the Colorado game in early November that he planned on giving Hogan 10-15 plays, but he played so well that he never came out. He started the next week against Oregon State, and he'll likely be starting for the next two years.
It's a completely different team with Hogan at quarterback. He's comfortable in the pocket, but he's also a dangerous runner, either scrambling out of broken plays or on designed runs. The offense certainly isn't as potent as last season under Luck, but it's definitely headed in the right direction.
MTB: Stepfan Taylor or Montee Ball - putting aside your Stanford bias or Wisconsin hatred (if any) who's the better running back?
GMC: have to admit that I've seen very little of Montee Ball, so I'll focus on Taylor. When he walks off the field in the late afternoon of January 1st, he'll do as one of the greatest running backs in Stanford history. He is the only Cardinal player ever with three consecutive thousand-yard seasons, and last week he passed Darrin Nelson and moved to the top of the school's all-time rushing list.He's gotten there with a blend of breakaway speed and physical toughness that separates him from most running backs in the country. Aside from that, he can always be counted on to pick up the blitzing linebacker, and his receiving skills have improved tremendously over the past few seasons. I'm sure there are other running backs out there who might compare to Taylor, but I don't want any of them. I'll roll with Stephan.
MTB: What are some of the traditions of the Stanford fan base and what can Badger fans traveling to Pasadena expect out of the group of Cardinal enthusiasts? Basically, describe the typical Stanford fan?
GMC: There aren't too many deeply ingrained traditions associated with Stanford football, and those of us who are honest enough to admit it will say that we often look across the field at the opposing team's fans and wish that weren't the case. There are no cheers that have been passed down from one generation to the next, aside from a few deliciously snarky ones that come out against Cal every year. But the atmosphere on campus with respect to the football team has changed dramatically since I was a student twenty-two years ago. Back then, game days looked like any other Saturday, but now the campus feels like a football school, with students dressed in red and holding mini tailgates in front of dorms and in student parking lots. The Red Zone student section is filled (and loud) for every game. Wisconsin fans will read all this and wonder what the big deal is, but believe me when I say that this is a glacial change
MTB: Which is better for you guys, your offensive line or defensive line and who should Badger fans get themselves familiar with on those units?
GMC: The offensive line has been a bit inconsistent this year, so I'll choose the defensive line, and the front seven by extension. Stanford runs a 3-4 defense, it's run in such a way that the three defensive linemen are assigned to take on the offensive linemen directly to clear the way for the linebackers to make plays. The linemen do their job well, but since they're absorbing blocks instead of making tackles, their names aren't called very often. Henry Anderson and Terrence Stephens have been great all year (though Stephens missed both UCLA games and is questionable for the Rose Bowl for personal issues), but Ben Gardner is the one to watch here. He spends a lot of time in the backfield and has become a vicious hitter.
The heart of this defense, though, is the linebacking corps. People in SEC country would likely disagree, but this could be the best and deepest group of linebackers in the country. Outside linebackers Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy both made All-Pac-12, and A.J. Tarpley on the inside has been as good as any defender in the conference. It's a crime that none of these linebackers have gotten any All-America love, but that's probably because of the incredible depth Stanford has at the position. Backups like sophomore James Vaughters and Jarek Lancaster also play a considerable amount (Vaughters is a physical freak, and even had a few starts this season), and we still haven't mentioned inside linebacker Shayne Skov, the unquestioned leader of this team. You'll hear all those names called a lot on January 1st.