It's (the day after) New Years' Day, which means (when the new year starts on a Sunday) its Rose Bowl Day, which remains (in most years) the most important day of the year Pac-12. And (this year), Fiesta Bowl Day too.
The Pac-12 has a representative in both this year, and Oregon St. fans know both real well. As well as the Big 12's representative in the Rose Bowl. The Beavers are the only team to play both Oregon and Wisconsin, not to mention Stanford.
#5 Oregon (11-2, 8-1), led by LaMichael James, above, takes on #10 Wisconsin (11-2, 6-2) in the Rose Bowl, in the "Granddaddy of all Bowl Games", and its a "classic" matchup of Pac-12 speed against Big 10 muscle. Except Oregon is more physical than most of the country realizes, and Wisconsin, led by Monte Ball, below, has more speed than most want to admit.
(Just ask Jordan Poyer; he gave his all against both, and it wasn't enough, as Wisconsin romped over Oregon St. 35-0 in Madison in early September, and Oregon out-raced the Beavers 49-21 in the Civil War in Eugene on Thanksgiving Weekend.)
Buildingthedam.com, and the Beavers, pay respect today to these teams, which the Beavs tried to beat, and earn a spot in today's bowl lineup. But the Duck, Badgers, and the Cardinal, beat Oregon St. fair and square, and soundly, and a lot of others, and earned their position in today's showcases.
The Pac-12, after going 1-4 so far in the bowl season, could really use some strong performances today as well.
Picking the Rose Bowl is challenging, because of the contrasts between Oregon, who won the Pac-10/12 for the third year in a row, and Wisconsin, who won the Big 12, and went to the Rose Bowl, for the second consecutive season.
Oregon lost to Ohio St. in the Rose Bowl 2 years ago yesterday, and went to Glendale for the BCS National Championship Game, not the Fiesta Bowl, last year, only to lose both, to Ohio St. and Auburn. A BCS Bowl Win is about the only thing missing from Oregon coach Chip Kelly's resume, and it's hard to imagine the small mistakes that has cost the Ducks in these big stage games of late won't be corrected today.
Wisconsin developed a reputation of not only getting to bowl games, but frequently winning them under coach Barry Alvarez. When current coach Bret Bielema took over after Alvarez retired, the Badgers have arguably even elevated their program overall. But like Kelly, a Rose Bowl win would crown Bielema's accomplishments.
TCU took the Rose Bowl berth Oregon vacated to make a run at the National Championship last year, not Stanford, who had to settle for winning the Orange Bowl, and it was the Horned Frogs who gigged the Badgers, beating Wisconsin in Pasadena.
If Oregon is totally focused on winning this day, so is Wisconsin. Should be fun to watch.
Wisconsin, behind the one-two punch of Ball's running and quarterback Russell Wilson is going to score points on Oregon, and the Ducks's one-two punch of James and Kenjon Barner, both of whom may announce they are going to turn pro early after the game (they are that good), are going to run up numbers, even against the stout Badger defense. Oregon is likely going to get some work done on kick returns as well.
The place where the game will be decided is in the Wisconsin secondary. How well Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas is able to work to David Paulson, and how well the Ducks can isolate De'Anthony Thomas on Badger linebackers and safeties who will not be able to keep up with him one on one will decide the game.
The weather is great in Pasadena today, and has been all week, so the Rose Bowl turf will be in good shape, and fast. The Wisconsin defensive line has to get penetration, and the back 7 have to keep the Oregon weapons in front of them. I don't think the Badgers will be able to do it all day.
The pick is Oregon 38 Wisconsin 31.
Fiesta Bowl More Contrast
#4 Stanford (11-1, 8-1) takes on Big XII (minus the II) Champion #3 Oklahoma St. (11-1, 8-1) this evening, in what many wish was going to determine the opponent for a +1 game against the winner of next Monday's BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans, between #1 LSU and #2 Alabama (even though the Tigers have already beaten the Crimson Tide on the Tide's own field).
The Fiesta Bowl is a fiesta Oregon St. is familiar with, after their
win over destruction of Notre Dame 11 years ago. But the game was still being played at Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona St. campus at that time, not the "Big Toaster" that is now the home of the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL.
This game is even more of a contrast in styles than the Rose Bowl. The Cowboys, behind 28 year old quarterback Brandon Weeden, who spent several years in minor league baseball before returning to Oklahoma St. to play football score early, often, and then usually score some more.
The Cardinal play a lot of defense, and run the ball a lot. It was Stepfan Taylor's running that turned the game when Stanford beat Oregon St. 38-13 the first weekend of November, a game that was in question until late in the third quarter.
But its All-American quarterback Andrew Luck, above, the Player of the Year, who ultimately drives Stanford, whether by carving up an opponent himself, or by being a threat to do so that facilitates the Cardinal's pounding running game.
Of course, a couple of big reasons Luck is as effective as he is, as well as Taylor, either as a rusher, or a receiver, as above, are Stanford's pair of First Team All-American (never mind First Team All-Pac-12) offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. The future NFL first rounders make it much easier for "the Tree" to have the success the program from Palo Alto has enjoyed of late.
This is the game in which we learn just how how NFL ready Luck is; if he can control a game that could turn into a shootout, it will really say something.
If Stanford wasn't without LB Shane Skov and WR Chris Owuso, I think they would succeed. But Oklahoma St. is annoyed at being shut out of the BCS National Championship Game, and are going to be looking for a win that might get them a share of a split Championship if Alabama pulls the upset.
The time to prepare for the Cardinal will help, and while I'll be pulling for Stanford, and the Conference, I expect it to be something like Oklahoma St. 48 Stanford 41 when its over.
Leave your predictions and thoughts on the Pac-12's biggest bowl day below, and lets enjoy some football!