This year's Rose Bowl features two run-oriented teams, Stanford and five-loss Wisconsin.
PASADENA, Calif. — The Rose Bowl pregame weather has been about as crummy as the seven combined losses for Stanford and Wisconsin.
It is never good to make Dick Butkus, who made the game-clinching interception for Illinois in the 1964 game, slog through drenching rain during the inaugural Rose Bowl golf tournament.
It is regrettable the leader of the Big Ten champion chose coaching in Arkansas over coaching in Pasadena.
The timing for Tuesday’s Rose Bowl — let’s face it — could have also been better.
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Last year, a Stanford-Wisconsin matchup would have paired quarterback Andrew Luck against Russell Wilson in a battle of future NFL rookie-of-the-year candidates, Luck with the Indianapolis Colts and Wilson with the Seahawks.
This year, it is Kevin Hogan of Stanford versus Curt Phillips, two quarterbacks who started the season on the bench.
Furthermore, some of the reporters could have been better prepared.
No Rose Bowl news conference transcript featuring Stanford’s Zach Ertz, arguably the best tight end in college football, should read like an entry-level interview for Jack in the Box.
Question: Are you a senior?
Ertz: I’m a junior.
Q: What is your major?
Ertz: Industrial engineering.
Q: When do you guys go back to school?
Ertz: School starts the 7th, I believe.
Q: Where are you from?
Ertz: I’m from the East Bay.
Q: So you didn’t go very far, did you?
Ertz: No, it’s like an hour away.
Q: What part?
Q: Well, you didn’t go very far.
Ertz: Yeah, exactly.
This year’s Rose Bowl is No. 99. Next year’s 100th edition promises to be a double-host jubilee capped by bells, whistles, flyovers and, best of all, the last Bowl Championship Series championship game ever played!
So why does Stanford (11-2) versus Wisconsin (8-5) even matter?
The Big Ten left its 12-0 team, Ohio State, at home on probation. And while Pac-12 champion Stanford might be marginally better than conference rival Oregon, it certainly is not more entertaining.
The playing style of the schools could be described as neo-Neanderthal, and there is not a chance in the world Stanford coach David Shaw will channel Woody Hayes and punch a photographer.
This could be the quickest Rose Bowl game since before TV timeouts, a Greco-Roman wrestling interlock of handoffs and clock management.
“We’re going to run the ball,” Shaw warned television viewers this week. “We’re going to run the ball between the tackles. That’s just what we do. … “
One reason Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez could seamlessly roll out of retirement to coach this game, replacing the Arkansas-bound Bret Bielema, is the game might not be that much different from Wisconsin’s 17-9 victory over Stanford in the 2000 Rose Bowl.
“You know, I think they play similar,” said Alvarez, recalling his third Rose Bowl victory. “They ran the ball well the last time around, they could throw it and they were balanced. I think they’re very similar teams.”
Wisconsin has run the ball 590 times this season, compared with 274 passing attempts. Stanford has rushed it 514 times, compared with 379 passes.
“I happen to think that’s how you play football,” Alvarez said.
Both Cardinal losses came before Shaw made the quarterback switch to Hogan, who has gone 4-0 as the starter and invigorated the post-Luck offense. You can wonder about Stanford being 13-0 had the move to Hogan been made sooner, but smart people who follow and coach at Stanford say the redshirt freshman wasn’t ready. “I wasn’t ready to go in at the time,” Hogan confirmed.
After a sluggish start for the bowl, the weather and the teams, it appears everyone is ready now.