By Mark Miller
On paper this matchup made more sense last year when Heisman Trophy winner Andrew Luck was Stanford University’s quarterback and Russell Wilson was leading the University of Wisconsin. Both are now in the National Football League.
Instead, it’s redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan and fifth-year senior Curt Phillips who will go under center for the Cardinal and Badgers, respectively. It will mark the first time the teams have met since the 2000 Rose Bowl when Wisconsin won 17-9.
While that was the last time Stanford played in the granddaddy of bowl games, Wisconsin (8-5) is making its third straight appearance equalling Michigan in the late 1970s. The Badgers lost 21-19 to Texas Christian University two years ago and 45-38 to the University of Oregon last year.
Hogan led the Cardinal (11-2) to their seventh straight win Friday night in a 27-24 decision over the University of California-Los Angeles in the Pacific-12 Conference championship game. Phillips, the Badgers’ third quarterback of 2012 who missed much of his career with knee injuries, spent most of Saturday night handing off to running backs who gained 539 yards in a 70-31 victory over the University of Nebraska in the Big 10 Conference championship game.
The Badgers played in the Big 10 title game because Ohio State University and Penn State University were ineligible and took full advantage to wipe out the frustration of four losses by three points and three in overtime.
Both teams feature strong running games. Senior Stephen Taylor already is Stanford’s career rushing leader with 4,212 yards. Wisconsin senior Montee Ball has run for 5,040 yards and an National Collegiate Athletic Association-record 76 rushing and 82 overall touchdowns. Junior James White has rushed for more than 2,500 career yards and scored 29 touchdowns.
Stanford scores an average of 28.5 and gives up 17.5 points per game. While Wisconsin averaged 30.7 points, that included games of 62 against Indiana and 70 against Nebraska. It was consistent on defense yielding just 19.1 points per game.
The kicking game could decide the outcome as Stanford’s Jordan Williamson missed 10 of 25 kicks this year while Wisconsin’s Kyle French failed on five of 15 tries.