Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/30/12
The battle between the Big-10 Champions (Wisconsin) and the Pac-12 Champions (Stanford #6 nationally) is one of the most enticing match-ups of this bowl season.The Wisconsin Badgers will be competing in in their third consecutive Rose Bowl against arguably the hottest team in the nation. The Stanford Cardinal heads to the Rose Bowl on a seven game winning streak, including a field goal win over Oregon--a game that displayed Stanford's suffocating defense and ball-controlled offense. While Stanford is trending up, the Wisconsin football program finds itself in an unlikely state of flux. Former Coach Bret Bielema stunned the college football world when he decided to take the head coaching gig at Arkansas. The departure, although a damaging blow to the Wisconsin fan base, is softened by the fact that Wisconsin legend--and current AD Barry Alvarez--has decided to step-inand coach the big game. Alvarez, who turned Wisconsin football into a national power in the 90's, is undefeated in Rose Bowls (winning three). In addition to filling-in for Bielema, Alarez announced that WAC coach of the year, Gary Andersen of Utah State, will become the head coach of the Badgers.Aside from the return of Barry Alvarez, this Rose Bowl matchup has plenty of intriguing story lines and things to look out for. Here are just a few:What to Watch for:Stanford's Studs on D:  The Cardinal won the Pac-12 Championship with sound coaching, a power running game and one of the nation's best defenses. The stifling unit is led by, Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy, a duo of all-Pac 12 linebackers. These stalwarts combined for 33.5 tackles for loss, including 17.5 sacks.  That said, the unit will be without senior nose tackle, Terrence Stephens, who was declared ineligible to play due to a secondary violation of NCAA rules concerning living off campus. The senior missed Stanford's final two games (coincidentally both versus UCLA).Without their hog in the middle it'll be interesting to see how the Cardinal defense can contain Wisconsin's surging running attack, led by future NFL back Monte Ball and his speedy replacement James White.The Play of Freshman QB Kevin Hogan:Kevin Hogan, the Cardinal red shirt Freshman QB, is undefeated in his 4 starts. Although a small sample size, each win came against a ranked opponent, including 4th quarter comeback wins over then the #2 team in the nation, the Oregon Ducks. Hogan is a dual threat quarterback who has completed over 71 percent of passes. The young QB's mobility (209 yards rushing) will keep Wisconsin honest and offer numerous alleys for stud running back Stefan Taylor. Expect a Close Game: The Badgers come into this game as 7 point dogs. This line is inflated due to Stanford's late-season surge and the Badgers' struggles early on in the year. The loss of Stanford's nose tackle, the coaching of Alvarez and the rushing of Ball and White equals a contest decided by a field goal. 
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