Barry is back.
Yes, the Wisconsin Football legend himself who led the Badgers to three Rose Bowl victories in 1994, 1999 and 2000 will return for a fourth shot at the “Granddaddy of Them All” Jan. 1, 2013.
According to Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal, the football captains reached out to Alvarez and asked him to coach at the Rose Bowl after former head coach Bret Bielema unexpectedly darted to the SEC to coach at Arkansas. Alvarez saw it as an honor and will make his first coaching debut since his retirement in 2005.
Alvarez will take the 8-5 Badgers to their third straight Rose Bowl, where they’ll be hoping the third time is the charm. In 2010, the Badgers played a close one against TCU, but fell a failed two-point conversion short of forcing overtime, losing 21-19. A year later, UW was seeking some redemption, this time led by phenomena Russell Wilson. But Wilson and his high-powered offense couldn’t match Oregon’s even higher-powered offense and the Badgers faced heartbreak once again in a 45-38 decision.
In its third attempt at a chance for the roses, Wisconsin will face No. 6 Stanford who boasts an 11-2 record. In contrast to the Cardinal’s command of the Pac-12 this season, many view the Badgers presence in the Rose Bowl as an embarrassment given their record and lack of ranking in the BCS standings.
But with two ineligible teams in their division and a surprisingly favorable rematch in the Big Ten title game, Wisconsin steamrolled its way into the Jan. 1 matchup on the heels of 70-31 victory over Nebraska Dec. 1.
Stanford – who beat UCLA 27-24 in the Pac-12 Championship game for a trip to Pasadena – is a strikingly Big Ten-esque team that has a balanced attack and a staunch defense.
“This is going to be the first team, really for both of us, that it’s almost kind of like a mirror image where our guys on defense are going to see some things that they recognize, because they go against them in training camp and spring ball,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said in a teleconference Dec. 2.
“You’re talking about double teams and pulling guards and full backs and tight ends and quarterbacks that use play action. It’s going to be some very similar styles. But at the same time we have our own uniqueness as well.”
The Cardinal have averaged 173.3 rushing yards per game and 203.5 passing yards per game, all leading to an average 28.5 points per game. In comparison, Wisconsin’s offense averaged 237.8 rushing yards per game and 162.6 passing yards per game. With a boost from 70 points in the Big Ten Championship game, the Badgers averaged 30.8 points per game on the season.
The similarities don’t end on offense – both teams rank within the top 20 in the nation in scoring defense. Stanford sits in at No. 14 overall in points allowed with 17.5 per game while Wisconsin checks in at No. 19 with 19.1 points allowed per game.
Overall, both defenses rank within the top three in their respective conferences as the Cardinal proved to be the No. 1 overall defense in the Pac-12 on the heels of their No. 1 rushing defense as well.
Stanford’s defense only allows an average of 87.7 yards per game which will prove to be a tough test for a Wisconsin team that relies on it’s three-headed rushing attack in senior Montee Ball, junior James White and sophomore Melvin Gordon.
The three running backs carried the Badgers through the Big Ten title game, combining for a total of eight rushing touchdowns out of UW’s 10 scores in the matchup – White also threw for a touchdown.
But Wisconsin also has a solid defense – No. 3 in the Big Ten – that is a little more balanced than Stanford’s (its pass defense gives up an average of 251.5 yards per game). The Badgers rush defense has allowed 124.5 yards per game as the strengthened secondary allowed 196.5 yards per game.
For the Badgers, a key may be whether they can continue to effectively move the ball with their imposing run game. Since quarterback Curt Phillips stepped into the starting role, he has only completed 36 of 65 attempts – 55.4 percent – for 457 yards and four touchdowns, making the run game key to keeping the pressure off the fifth-year senior.
While Phillips is the third quarterback UW has started this season, Stanford has undergone it’s own quarterback carousel, until it finally landed on freshman Kevin Hogan – also the third quarterback to play for his respective team this year.
Hogan has seen action in nine games this season, starting four of them. Over that time, he has completed 97 of 133 passing attempts for 973 yards and nine touchdowns.
Stanford may not be a traditional Big Ten powerhouse, but it certainly has that feel going up against Wisconsin. For Barry and the Badgers, Alvarez just wants to give his team the best chance to have success, especially in light of the recent coaching changes.
“My other main objective is to make sure that our student-athletes, specifically our seniors playing in their final game as Badgers, have a tremendous experience in the Rose Bowl,” Alvarez said in a statement regarding Bielema’s departure, prior to announcing he would coach the team. “We will do everything within our power to make that happen.”