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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

BCS Bowl Preview: The 100th Rose Bowl

Wild on Sports
BCS Bowl Preview: The 100th Rose Bowl
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

The Rose Bowl is the most iconic bowl game played in college football, symbolized by its 100th anniversary, which will be played this year. Recently, the Rose Bowl has become the game in which the PAC-12 Champion has played the Big 10 Champion, as long as those teams were not in contention for the National Championship Game. This year will be no different, with #4 Michigan State representing the Big 10 after ending Ohio State’s undefeated season in the Big 10 Championship Game, and #5 Stanford representing the PAC 12, after pounding Arizona State in the PAC 12 Championship game. Both of these teams pride themselves on their running games, and playing a physical brand of defense to wear out the opposing offenses. While this game will probably be a relatively low scoring game, it will showcase a brand of smash-mouth football that many teams can’t compete with.

How Michigan State Got Here: 
Sparty has had its best season in a long time, going undefeated in Big 10 play, and it lost its only game to Notre Dame, a game that was played in South Bend. Connor Cook was named the starting quarterback, after only throwing 17 passes as a freshman, but played a conservative, mistake-free brand of football, throwing for 2400 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. He relied mostly on Jeremy Langford who embraced his role as the workhorse back, rushing for over 1300 yards and 17 touchdowns. Michigan State doesn’t have a game breaking wide receiver, but has had consistent production from all of their weapons, with seven players having over 15 receptions and six players with over 190 yards receiving. Sparty also has a consistent kicking game, with kicker Michael Geiger hitting 14 of 15 field goals, including 8/8 from 40+ yards. In reality, Michigan State’s hopes for victory rely on their top-ranked defense. Michigan State’s defense is #1 in yards allowed per game, including the #1 rush defense and the #5 pass defense, as well as giving up the fourth fewest points per game. Michigan State only gave up over 350 yards in three games this season, and held teams to under 250 total yards in eight of their games. However, as of Thursday, Michigan State announced that defensive leader Max Bullough would be suspended for the Rose Bowl for violating team policies. Bullough has started at middle linebacker for the past three years and was a senior captain and main play caller for the defense. While the Spartans have senior Kyler Elsworth as Bullough’s back up, Elsworth has played limited snaps, especially in meaningful situations. Elsworth will get thrown into the fire and will have to make calls and change formations to contend with Stanford’s run-heavy formations, which can feature up to 8 offensive linemen on the field.

How Stanford Got Here: 
This may sound ridiculous, but this may be Stanford’s most disappointing season in recent memory. In a season during which they dominated the best teams the PAC 12 had to offer, Stanford lost at Utah and against USC at The Coliseum. Stanford, like MSU, used a relatively conservative passing game and a strong running game to wear opposing defenses down. Quarterback Kevin Hogan threw for almost 2500 yards, with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while completing over 61% of his passes; adding over 300 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Stanford’s offense was defined by its running game, which utilized unique formations, often using more than six offensive linemen in order to overpower opposing defenses and wear them down. Running back Tyler Gaffney was a workhorse, carrying the ball over 300 times, gaining over 1600 yards with 20 touchdowns. Gaffney is a big, bruising back who led the offense as a senior this season, and ran with a violent aggression and refused to go down after first contact. Stanford’s receivers are relatively underwhelming, save for game changer Ty Montgomery, who can score any time he touches the ball, whether it’s in the receiving, return, and sometimes even rush game. Montgomery had 14 all-around touchdowns, including ten receiving touchdowns, and was Hogan’s most reliable receiver because of his blend of size and incredible speed. Shayne Skov, who is technically a linebacker, but was often on the line, and also played with his hand on the ground, led Stanford’s defense, which gave up the 10th fewest points in college football and was the 3rd best defense against the run. However, Stanford’s biggest problem is their pass defense, which ranked 85th in the country, but that is a bit misleading. Teams were forced to throw on Stanford because of their inability to run the ball on the Cardinal defense, and eventually were able to get big plays on the aggressive and physical corners. Outcome: This will most likely be the lowest scoring and “ugliest” of all of the BCS bowl games, but it will give us a glimpse back in time to old school football. Both of these teams win their games in the trenches, relying on their offensive and defensive lines to dictate the way that the game is played. Both teams will have their difficulties running the ball, but Tyler Gaffney and the overloaded formations that Stanford uses will wear down Sparty’s defense, leading the Cardinal to victory.

Stanford: 17, Michigan State: 10


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