Brady (Oregon) to Harrison (Wisconsin):

At their best, the Badgers were beating the brakes off of Michigan and Minnesota. At their worst, they were losing to Illinois as 29-point favorites. Where are they right now?

Coming off a devastating loss in the Big Ten Championship to Ohio State University, the Badgers will be looking to draw blood against Oregon. While the offense and defense have both had their ups and downs this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Badgers come out firing against the Ducks. With that in mind, I would say that Wisconsin might be at their best right now, especially if all of their starters play.

The way the Badgers performed against OSU in the first half is what I would expect to see against Oregon, as the loss of Chris Orr really took away a lot of the momentum Wisconsin had in the Big Ten Championship.

But, you never really know what you’re going to get with Wisconsin, as they can compete with the best teams (i.e. wins against Iowa, Minnesota) and lose to the worst (i.e. loss to Illinois). With this being the last game for many players, including Orr and draft-eligible Jonathan Taylor, I predict Wisconsin will battle from start to finish.

Football: Badgers headed to 2020 Rose Bowl vs. OregonIt’s official — the Badgers are headed to the 2020 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. This will be Wisconsin’s 10th Read…

Your one lasting memory from the 2012 Rose Bowl is…

Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson going toe-to-toe with Oregon’s Kiko Alonso. Going into the season, nobody would’ve guessed either player would go on to have such a successful career, both in college and the NFL.

Wilson was a North Carolina State transfer that few Badger fans knew about, but he would go on to be a nice change of pace for a typically run-first offense (though Wisconsin still ran a lot with Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball in the backfield). Wilson would end up having a great game in the loss, going 19-for-25 for 296 yards, two touchdowns and an interception via the air. He would also contribute six carries for 18 yards. Just four months later, Wilson would be taken in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks, where he has enjoyed success since taking over the starting job.

Alonso went under the radar for most of his first three seasons in college, totaling just 63 tackles in 25 games while also facing legal trouble more than once in his sophomore and junior seasons. While many other options on Oregon’s defense seemed more threatening heading into the Rose Bowl, Alonso proved to be as valuable as any other player on the Oregon defense with an interception, five tackles and 1.5 sacks en route to Defensive Player of the Game honors. Alonso would return to Oregon for his senior year before being drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

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Who are two lesser-known players (one on offense, one on defense) that need to have a big game for Wisconsin to win?

Not sure if you can ever call the starting quarterback “lesser-known,” but when Jonathan Taylor runs your offense, I guess that works. That being said, Jack Coan has either been really good or really mediocre this season. He’ll need to have a big game if Wisconsin has any chance at winning, especially if the Oregon defense finds a way to shut down Taylor. Coan was running freely in the first half against OSU, and he can definitely have a major impact if he does so again in the Rose Bowl.

On the opposite side of the ball, Jack Sanborn is a name to know. Chris Orr and Zack Baun attract much of the attention given to the Wisconsin defense, but the linebacker completing the trio has also made an above-average contribution this season. While Sanborn is definitely the lesser-known of the group, he has had a major impact on the defensive gameplan of Wisconsin this season, totaling 72 tackles and 5.5 sacks in his sophomore season.

CJ Verdell ran for 208 yards and three touchdowns against the nation’s top-ranked run defense in the Pac-12 Championship Game. What are the Badgers going to have to do to slow down Verdell and Oregon’s excellent offensive line?

As I said in the previous question, the linebacking trio of Orr, Baun and Sanborn will need to get into the backfield quickly to prevent Verdell and the rest of the Oregon offense from getting anything going. When those three guys are able to put pressure on the opposing offense, Wisconsin tends to be successful defensively.

In the Big Ten Championship, Chris Orr exited the game in concussion protocol in the first half while Wisconsin was rolling, heading into halftime with a 21–7 lead. Orr’s absence in the second half was noticeable, as the Buckeyes outscored Wisconsin 27–0 with Wisconsin having no answer for the dynamic Buckeye offense. If Orr and the rest of the defense stay healthy in this game, I think they’ll have a decent chance to stop Verdell (and quarterback Justin Herbert) defensively.

Football: Badgers fall flat in second half, lose to The Ohio State University in Big Ten ChampionshipThe No. 8 University of Wisconsin football team (10-3, 7-3 Big Ten) lost 34–21 against No. 1 The Ohio State Read…

What’s your score prediction?

Despite the outcomes of the Pac-12 and Big Ten Championship Games, I think the Badgers will prevail in the rematch of the 2012 Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin’s offense and defense are among the best in college football when they’re playing to their full potential, and that was on display in the first half of the Big Ten Championship Game loss to OSU. I think the trio of Coan, Taylor and Quintez Cephus for Wisconsin is more capable than most make them out to be, and that will be evident against Oregon.

While the Oregon pairing of Herbert and Verdell is certainly intriguing, I think Wisconsin’s defense will have an answer when it matters most, especially if the starters play and are healthy. In a game I think will come down to defense late, I predict the final will be 28–24 as Wisconsin wins their sixth straight bowl game.

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Harrison (Wisconsin) to Brady (Oregon):

Oregon football has been as consistent as any other team in the nation, fluctuating in the rankings between No. 6 and 16 all season. Who or what has made them so consistent all season?

That’s an interesting observation because, yes, the Ducks have remained relatively steady in the rankings throughout the season. But neither unit — the offense or the defense — has actually been all that consistent. It just so happens that (for the most part) when the offense struggled, the defense picked up the slack, and when the defense leaked a bit, Justin Herbert and the offense stepped up and won shootouts.

The defense started the year at a historically torrid pace, and at one point went 12 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown. High-scoring games against Washington State and Washington exposed some holes, but late comebacks piloted by Herbert allowed the Ducks to escape with wins in both of those contests.

In the Civil War against Oregon State, the defense carried an offense that looked lethargic and uninspired the entire afternoon. Quite frankly, Oregon won that game despite a losing performance on that side of the ball. Then the next week against Utah, it all came together to capture the program’s first Pac-12 title since the Marcus Mariota days.

So, to answer your question, it’s been a bit of a season-long trade-off that has resulted in a fairly consistent final product.

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In Oregon’s dominant win over Utah, they impressed on both sides of the ball from start to finish. What do they need to do against Wisconsin to repeat that performance?

What changed the complexion of that game from the opening minutes was the Ducks’ ability to get off the field on 3rd- and 4th-and-short. They stuffed the Utes on three separate occasions on 4th-and-2 or shorter, and demoralized a Utah attack in the trenches that had been touted all season long as being one of the most physical in America. A repeat of that performance up front would certainly go a long way towards beating a similarly physical Wisconsin team.

Now, it’s a lot easier for me to sit here and write about stopping Jonathan Taylor on 4th-and-short than it is to actually do it. But to an extent, the point still stands. If Oregon can impose its will at the point of attack on both sides of the ball, it should open up some opportunities to make the big plays that fans remember for years after the final whistle.

Oregon has had one of the top offenses and top defenses this season. Who are the x-factors on each side of the ball (one on offense, one on defense) that can change the outcome of the Rose Bowl?

On the offensive side, I’ll actually go with a coach. Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo took the head coaching job at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Dec. 13, but will still be in the box calling plays for the Ducks one last time in Pasadena.

He’s been the target of a lot of criticism this season (some warranted, some not), but he’s been much better as of late and rode that success to a D1 head coaching job. The question then becomes, how invested is Arroyo in this game? He’s been doing the media rounds as the head man in Vegas while also balancing his play-calling duties for the Ducks, so it’s a fair question.

This “offensive coordinator turned head coach but still kind of offensive coordinator” situation has happened before, most notably Florida State’s Mark Richt against Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl (which was also the national title game). Richt took the head coaching job at Georgia before the game, but still called plays for the Seminoles — Florida State lost that game 13–2 and the offense didn’t score a single point.

I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but it has happened, and it’s something to keep an eye on.

On defense, I’ll go with nose tackle Jordon Scott. Nothing he does ever garners much attention, but he’s quietly one of Oregon’s most important players on that side of the ball. He consistently takes on multiple blocks and stuffs gaps to slow down opposing rushing attacks, and that’s going to be crucial against a rushing attack as lethal as Wisconsin’s.

If Taylor can get to the next level with regularity, it could be a long night for the Ducks. If Scott can plug some of those holes and keep Taylor contained, they’ll have a real shot to win this game.

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Badger running back Jonathan Taylor has had yet another impressive season leading the Wisconsin offense, breaking the NCAA record for most rushing yards through a junior season. What does the Oregon defense need to do to stop Taylor?

I just touched on it a bit when talking about Scott, but it does go beyond that. If Scott and company are able to congest the middle, Oregon’s ends and outside linebackers are going to have to keep contain and force everything back to the middle. If La’Mar Winston Jr., Kayvon Thibodeaux, Bryson Young and company let Taylor bounce it outside, they’re in trouble.

Because of how good Taylor is, they might be successful in that regard and still be in trouble. But it’s their best chance to keep him under wraps.

The 2012 Rose Bowl was a high-scoring shootout that saw Oregon come out on top with a late touchdown. Do you think this one will have a similar outcome, or something completely different? What’s your score prediction?

I don’t think this year’s Rose Bowl will resemble much of 2012 at all. 

Oregon runs a completely different offense now, and nobody on this year’s squad is going to run for 155 yards and two touchdowns on two carries like De’Anthony Thomas did that day. I do, however, think this year’s defense is better, and if they can force a couple turnovers and the offense can finish drives in the red zone, I think the Ducks win this game.

I’ll go 24–21 Ducks in a game that goes down to the wire.