Sunday, January 1, 2012

PS Bowl-A-Thon 2011: 2012 Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio

Who doesn't need Rose Bowl Parade facts? We're a full service sports blog.

The Where and When:
Rose Bowl presented by Vizio, Pasadena, CA. January 2nd, 2012 5:00 ET ESPN/ESPN3

The Who:
Wisconsin Badgers (11-2, 6-2 Big Ten) vs. Oregon Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac 12)

The Why:
Unlike the convoluted mess that resulted in some of the other bowl matchups this season (conferences not having enough bowl eligible team, horse trading games for $’s, etc.) the teams playing in the Grand Daddy of ‘Em All arrived here pretty directly. Specifically, if you win the Big 10 and win the Pac 12 (and aren’t playing for all the marbles), you’re headed the Rose, and that’s exactly what we have here. Wisconsin, as the Big 10 champs, roll into Pasadena after winning the inaugural Big 10 championship 42-39 in a thriller over Michigan State. Oregon, meanwhile took care of business in the Pac 12, dispatching of an overmatched UCLA team 49-31 in that conference’s championship game (the game wasn’t as close as the score might indicate).

What Smartypants Accounting Guy Would Tell You:
There’s no question that this game features two of the best offenses in the country, although they achieved that success in very distinct ways throughout the season. Wisconsin relies heavily on running back Montee Ball (1,759 yards rushing and 38 TD’s) to pound the ball behind an extremely big and physical offensive line. Of course, the Badgers also feature a stellar quarterback in NC State transfer Russell Wilson. Although he didn’t get nearly as much Heisman love as his teammate, Wilson threw for 2,879 yards, completed 72.5% of his passes, scored 31 TD’s (versus only 4 interceptions) and notched a pass efficiency rating of 191.6. On defense, Wisconsin is led by linebacker Chris Borland and safety Aaron Henry and closed out the season with the 6th ranked unit in terms of scoring against, yielding only 17 points per game and only allowed an average of about 134 yards per game on the ground – a key stat when playing the run first (fast, and often) Ducks. Lastly, not to be outdone by the always flashy Oregon uniforms, the Badgers have unveiled new duds for the game, featuring the “Battle Rose” design. Time will tell if the uniforms hold the power to slow down the track-meet style offense the Ducks run.

Speaking of Oregon, they feature three dynamic playmakers in Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, and LaMichael James. But, James is clearly the featured player as he closed the season with 1,646 yards and 17 touchdowns (even though he missed two games with an injured elbow). Aside from James’ toting the rock for an average of almost 150 yards per game (and Kenjon Barner’s 1,000+ total yards from scrimmage), the Ducks rely on quarterback Derron Thomas, and in his second season as a starter, Thomas put up solid numbers, totaling 2,493 passing yards and 30 touchdowns versus only 6 interceptions. On defense, Oregon plays an aggressive, ball hawking style, as evidenced by their 43 sacks this season (tying Texas A&M for most in the country), while yielding about 138 yards per game on the ground and 243.5 through the air. As is the case for Wisconsin and questions surrounding their ability to slow down the high-octane Ducks offense, questions certainly swirl regarding the Ducks’ under-sized defense’s ability to slow down the pounding and methodical Badger attack.

Lastly, as we’ve seen throughout bowl season, special teams will likely play a key role in this game so the matchup up between De’Anthony Thomas (and his game breaking return abilities for Oregon) versus the Badgers kick coverage will be one to watch, as will Oregon placekicker Alejandro Maldonado’s struggles kicking field goals this year, as he’s only hit 6 of 11.

Pool Prognosticators Pattern:
The first time I saw the Pacific Ocean was when my sister and I were camping in Oregon and although I won’t go so far as to call it a spiritual experience, it was definitely very cool. God bless the Oregon dunes! Then again, I applied for a job in Portland, flew out for the interview and then was ultimately passed over for the gig – what’s up with Oregon thinking they’re too good for your humble correspondent? With respect to Wisconsin, I guess the only thing that really matters is that my mom grew up in the Badger state (Milwaukee, not Madison, but still). And I don’t think I need to say it, but just in case…huge advantage Wisconsin.

Vegas Edge:
Oregon is listed as a six point favorite, as Vegas is apparently betting that the Ducks will be able to outrun and outscore the Badgers by a touchdown. The over/under is 72 which seems pretty low when you factor in that if these two teams score to their averages, it’ll be a 46-45 shootout (literally, Oregon scored 46/game while Wisconsin was at 45). And not only are these teams essentially tied when it comes to points per game, Wisconsin was 7-6 ATS while Oregon was 6-6-1. For what it’s worth, Oregon is 9-15 all time in bowl games while Wisconsin is 13-9, although both teams are coming off bowl game losses last season (Wisconsin was nipped by TCU in the Rose while Auburn beat Oregon in the BCS title game on a field goal as time expired).

Sweatpants Verdict:
Both offenses are clearly explosive as they each tallied more than 80 touchdowns this seasons, both feature stud running backs (Ball for Wisconsin, James for Oregon), both have quarterbacks who had excellent TD to interception ratios, and with Wisconsin’s foray into new uniforms, both will certainly be sharply dressed for the game. However, Oregon has typically struggled when teams have extra time to prepare for their fast paced offense (as evidenced by losses to Boise State, Ohio State, Auburn and LSU, all following extended breaks between games, and although Darron Thomas put up solid numbers, he did so completing only 61.4% of his passes. Lastly, the Oregon defense surrenders almost 7 more points per game than their Badger counterparts (23.6 ppg allowed vs. only 17) – although to be fair Wisconsin has not faced the caliber of offense they’ll see in the Rose Bowl. Taking everything into consideration, I don’t think either defense will be able to get many stops, the teams will match each other score for score, and Maldonado misses a late field goal as Wisconsin holds on for a 45-42 win.

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