Know Your Foe: Badger facts for the 99th Rose Bowl

December 31, 2012

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I’m in Los Angeles for the 99th edition of the Rose Bowl, pitting my alma mater against the Big 10 champion. To celebrate the occasion, here is the first of two posts featuring facts on the two squads. Wisconsin is in the spotlight today; I’ll have a shorter roundup of Stanford football facts on New Year’s Day.

Speaking of which: Happy New Year — and thank you, as always, for reading this blog! Now, on to the football!

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Wisconsin parallels Stanford in that both had problems finding consistent quarterback play.

Moreover, both teams are appearing in their third consecutive BCS bowl game, tied for second after Oregon, which is making its fourth straight appearance. Wisconsin has played in the previous two Rose Bowls. The Cardinal finished its last two seasons in the Orange and Fiesta bowls.

The Cardinal is 42-10 (.808) since the start of the 2009 season, the sixth-best mark in the FBS. Wisconsin checks in at 40-13 (.755), or 11th-best.

Adequate QB play and a strong rushing game could be enough to power Wisconsin to victory. Wisconsin has not had 300 yards passing in any game this year, relying instead on its ground attack. With 277.8 yards per game, the Badgers’ rushing attack is the 12th most potent in the nation.

Wisconsin is one of only three squads, with Florida State and Tulsa, to have three runners this year with at least 550 ground yards. Those runners are Montee Ball (1,730 yards, 21 touchdowns), James White (802 and 12) and Melvin Gordon (570 and three). See below for a look at the 2000 Rose Bowl game, which includes more details on Ball’s prodigious feats.

Projected Rose Bowl starter Curt Phillips, a senior, has never attempted more than 25 passes in a game. He has 37 rushing yards this year, including a 52-yard gainer. In six games (four starts) this season, Phillips has thrown four touchdowns and one interception. His best game was probably in a loss to Penn State, where he threw for 191 yards, two scores and a pick. The previous week, he was 14-25 for 154 yards and a score at Ohio State.

The Badgers are one of just nine teams to have started three different quarterbacks this season.

Junior wideout Jared Abbrederis has a team-high 46 catches for 793 yards and five touchdowns. Junior tight end Jacob Pedersen is the second-leading receiver with 26 catches, 346 yards and four scores. Four other receivers account for the team’s remaining five receiving TDs. Tight end Sam Arneson’s three catches for 10 yards include a pair of scores.

The Badgers have thrived in part by limiting turnovers as well as penalties. Wisconsin has lost just six fumbles and allowed only five interceptions this year; the goal of 11 is the nation’s fourth-lowest tally. The team’s 3.8 flags per contest is the fourth-lowest rate in the nation.

The Badgers are 40 of 49 with 32 touchdowns when reaching the red zone. Opponents have scored on 27 of 29 red zone trips, including 19 TDs.

Like Stanford, Wisconsin has a strong rushing defense (124.5 yards allowed per game, 21st in the nation, compared to the Cardinal’s 87.7 yards, which is third best). The Badgers also boast solid passing and third-down defensive ratings. Wisconsin allows a total of 321 yards per game and less than 19.1 points per contest. Respectively, those marks rank 13th and 19th nationally. Badger opponents are 66/201 (33 percent) on third down.

By comparison, the Cardinal allows 338.9 yards a game, the nation’s 21st-best total defense mark, and 17.5 ppg, the 14th-best scoring defense. Opponents converted just 65 of 209 third-down attempts (31 percent).

Wisconsin’s defensive standouts are senior weakside linebacker Mike Taylor, the school’s seventh-ranked career tackler (374), and junior middle linebacker Chris Borland, who has 299 stops. Taylor has a team-high 120 with 15 tackles for loss, including three sacks; he has forced and recovered three fumbles apiece. Borland has 95 stops, 10 TFLs, including 4.5 sacks; he also has four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

In the secondary, senior safety Devin Smith has 56 tackles, a team-leading four interceptions and 12 pass breakups. Senior defensive back Marcus Cromartie has 58 stops, a pick and 12 breakups.

Wisconsin has attempted and missed one field goal in each of its past three games, which include two overtime losses, one of which (at Penn State) was by three points.

The 2013 Rose Bowl has some similarities to the 2000 Rose Bowl, which was when these two teams last met. Then, Ron Dayne was the Badgers’ main rushing threat. Now, it’s Montee Ball, who shares the NCAA single season TD record (39 in 2011, tying Barry Sanders) and owns the career touchdown mark (82, including six receiving scores in 2011). Dayne is the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher.

In that game, Wisconsin was highly regarded; Stanford, which entered at 8-4, was not. The tables are turned in this meeting, with the Pac 12 champion entering the game with an 11-2 record and the Big 10 representative sporting an 8-5 mark.

The Badgers’ all-time bowl record is 11-12, similar to Stanford’s.

Wisconsin is 3-5 in the Rose Bowl, having lost the previous two Rose Bowls (to TCU, the only time the Badgers have not met a Pac 8, Pac 10 or Pac 12 team in the Rose Bowl) and Oregon.

The Badgers are 4-0-1 all time vs. Stanford, including a 17-9 win on Jan. 1, 2000. Both teams punted eight times in that contest.

That covers the Badgers. Come back early on New Year’s Day for a look at their honorable foes, the Stanford Cardinal!

In the meantime, have a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve!

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