The Granddaddy of Them All is right around the corner and the Wisconsin Badgers are looking to send out their seniors with one last win. In the Rose Bowl, they’ll face a talented PAC-12 Champion in the Oregon Ducks. Both teams are looking to go out on top, but here’s what the Badgers will need to do to be the ones that leave Pasadena with a trophy.
Hammer it home, but find balance
The main story line of this game will of course be the superstars of Jonathan Taylor and Justin Herbert, but after that the fascinating battles will be played in the trenches. Both lines, on both sides of the football, are excellent. However for the Wisconsin offense, it’s time to flex their muscles up front. It’s time to show, on the national stage, what bully ball looks like here in the Midwest.
Sure, the Oregon front seven has been good, but they haven’t faced a rushing attack quite like this. Wisconsin ranks No. 13 in rushing offense which is the highest rank of any team Oregon has faced. The next closest is Arizona State at No. 25, which was one of the Ducks’ two losses.
I would expect Wisconsin to implement a similar game plan to what the Sun Devils did in that game. Eno Benjamin took 31 carries for ASU, but the leader of the offensive production was Jayden Daniels throwing for big plays with play action. Jack Coan and company will have to do enough of that to keep the Oregon defense honest and work off of JT’s success. How Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph manage running the football, but also finding key throwing downs, will be crucial for the Badgers.
Jack Coan throwing to his favorite target, Quintez Cephus, at #Badgers practice at the LA Chargers/Galaxy facilities.— Melissa Y. Kim (@melissaykim) December 29, 2019
Cephus has 6 TDs this season, second most on the team behind Jonathan Taylor.#OnWisconsin#RoseBowl pic.twitter.com/tlT8fSjjiR
On defense the game plan is pretty simple and it’s something that defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard does well. Dial up blitzes. The star of the Oregon offense is quarterback Justin Herbert, but at times he has been prone to mistakes. Most of those mistakes are predicated from the opponent getting in his face and forcing his hand to make throws that are not open. Even if the Badgers don’t get home and bring Herbert down for a sack, exotic looks seem to confuse him.
Herbert has a tendency to stare down some throws, so mixing up the looks and coverage could put the Badgers in favorable position to bait some throws from the Ducks QB. Yes, the Oregon Ducks offensive line is experienced and strong across the board, but they’ve averaged 1.77 sacks allowed per game which does not rank as high as it should for such a strong unit. In the run game, pressure will be important as well.
The Ducks are one of the top rushing attacks in the country, so getting pressure and a push from the defensive line will help slow down the running game, but also will allow Chris Orr and Zack Baun to get in the face of Herbert in hopes of him making errant throws.
Justin Herbert has been terrible tonight. Forces a throw late into tight coverage and it’s an easy Arizona State INT. pic.twitter.com/LHWgdYaPFs— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) November 24, 2019
Enjoy the moment, go out on top
At the bare bones, this game is just a scrimmage against a good PAC-12 team but to the players and fans this game means a lot more. To the fans and players this game is for pride in their conference and a Rose Bowl win. For a lot of special players on this Wisconsin team this will be the final game donning the cardinal and white. This could be the final time we see Jonathan Taylor in a Badgers uniform as well.
After so many heartbreaking performances in this stadium, it would be pretty special to send these players out on the right foot. No, this isn’t really a key in a lot of ways, but more so a plea to do whatever it takes to come away with a W in a special spot. These seniors and others have done a lot for the program and helped take it to the next level. Take in and enjoy watching them one more time, on one of the biggest stages possible. To see them win the Granddaddy of Them All would truly be a special way to send this team out.