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Fifth Quarter Consensus: Alvarez Wins Fourth Rose Bowl Championship

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Predictions:

  • Jake Harris (+285): Wisconsin 28, Stanford 20
  • Andy Johnson (+286): Wisconsin 31, Stanford 24
  • Phil Mitten (+288): Stanford 26, Wisconsin 23
  • Andrew Rosin (+338): Wisconsin 21, Stanford 16
  • Louis Bien: Stanford 21, Wisconsin 17
  • John Daly: Stanford 28, Wisconsin 14
  • Jack Moore: Stanford 24, Wisconsin 23
  • Nathan Palm: Wisconsin 24, Stanford 20
  • Nick Korger: Wisconsin 45, Stanford 10

The Reasoning:

The Wisconsin football program's 2012 season has featured more twists and turns than a bad soap opera. Many of the changes have taken place just in the time since the Badgers last played in a game December 1. The result of all the turmoil? Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez will serve as the team's head coach in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. He will look to improve his perfect record coaching in the game to 4-0.

While Alvarez will oversee the game, former head coach Bret Bielema's assistant coaches, many of them lame ducks, are responsible for game-planning. Only running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Thomas Hammock, defensive backs coach Ben Strickland, and possibly offensive line coach Bart Miller may be retained by new head coach Gary Andersen when he takes control of the team in 2013.

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is set to join former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren's new staff at North Carolina State, while defensive coordinator Chris Ash will move with Bielema to Arkansas. While that could be viewed as a distraction, Canada in particular may view the Rose Bowl as his final opportunity to open up the playbook for Wisconsin's talented personnel.

In addition to the return of Alvarez to the Rose Bowl sideline and the shakeup of Wisconsin's coaching staff, this game features several interesting story lines. UW is the first five-loss team to play in the Rose Bowl, by virtue of Ohio State's and Penn State's postseason ineligibility. The Badgers are making their third consecutive appearance in Pasadena and sixth since the 1993 season. They are trying to avoid losing three straight Rose Bowl games for the first time since Michigan did it in the 1970s.

To buck the recent trend, Wisconsin will have to slow down a solid Stanford team that has been rolling as of late. The Cardinal have won seven straight games since starting the season 4-2. In each of those seven wins, the Stanford defense has given up 24 points or fewer. The Cardinal not only won the Pac-12 conference, but beat UCLA twice in a six-day span to do so.

It all starts with the defense for head coach David Shaw's team. Stanford has given up just 17.5 points per game in 2012. The Cardinal ranks third in the nation in allowing just 87.7 rushing yards per game (2.84 yards per attempt). Stanford also leads the NCAA in sacks with 56 and tackles for loss with 120.

The Cardinal rotate a lot of players through defensive coordinator Derek Mason's 3-4 scheme. Senior linebacker Trent Murphy has 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, while senior linebacker Chase Thomas has 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.

Stanford's defense poses a serious matchup challenge for the Badgers. Led by Doak Walker Award winner Montee Ball, look for Wisconsin to try and test the Cardinal's stout run defense with a variety of looks. James White and Melvin Gordon will be used to keep the defense honest on the edges and try and open up the middle for Ball. Canada was successful in deploying Gordon on jet sweeps and running the "barge" formation with White in the Big Ten Championship Game against Nebraska, and he will likely have a few more tricks up his sleeve for this game.

Despite Stanford's strong overall numbers against the run, the Cardinal did give up 194 rushing yards to Johnathan Franklin in the Pac-12 Championship Game against UCLA. There is no reason Ball can't replicate that effort.

While Curt Phillips is set to make his fifth consecutive start at quarterback for Wisconsin, redshirt freshman Joel Stave has been cleared to play. Phillips obviously has the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches, but Stave is the better passer. Against a Stanford defense that ranks 83rd against the pass, expect Stave to take a few series to try and loosen up the Cardinal safeties.

Stave is more turnover-prone than Phillips, however, and Stanford has forced 26 turnovers this season, including 14 interceptions. Ball security will be at a premium no matter who is in the game. Wide receiver Chase Hammond may miss the game for Wisconsin, depleting an already thin receiving corps. Still, Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen remain capable.

Offensively, Stanford is led by freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan, who took over from junior Josh Nunes full-time at the beginning of November. Hogan is undefeated as a starter and has completed 72.9 percent of his passes for 973 yards. He has a stellar 9-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Hogan also boasts decent mobility. His best day as a runner came against Oregon State's tough defense (11 carries, 49 yards).

Senior running back Stepfan Taylor drives the train for the Cardinal, however. Taylor has rushed for 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and averages 4.8 yards per carry. He did manage just 78 yards on 24 carries against UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game, though.

Wisconsin's defense has had time to heal. With healthy defensive ends in David Gilbert, Brendan Kelly, Tyler Dippel, and Pat Muldoon, and middle linebacker Chris Borland back to full health, the Badgers should be in good shape.

The team announced that freshman kicker Jack Russell would handle placekicking duties in the Rose Bowl. Russell is 0-for-2 on field goal attempts this season, but has apparently practiced better than redshirt sophomore Kyle French. French has hit 10 of 16 field goal tries this season, but has struggled recently.

Sophomore Jordan Williamson isn't much better for the Cardinal, however. He has connected on just 15 of his 25 attempts. Stanford allows just 18.43 yards per kickoff return, but allows 7.47 yards per punt return.

Who has the edge?

Offense: Wisconsin

Defense: Stanford

Special Teams: Stanford

Coaching: Wisconsin

Intangibles: Push