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Friday, January 21, 2022
What to Watch For

rosebowl : The Badgers and Horned Frogs are set to play in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day

What to Watch For

LOS ANGELES—With all of the tailgate parties, marching band appearances, beef eating contests and general glitz and glamour of southern California, it is surprisingly easy to overlook the fact that there are a number of compelling matchups to keep an eye on once the Rose Bowl Game actually kicks off at 4:10 p.m. Central time Saturday afternoon.

Here's a look at some of the most important things to keep an eye on.

Size against speed

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Ever since the Wisconsin-TCU matchup was announced, it has been billed as the Horned Frogs' speed against the Badgers' size. That has been the theme of many Badger games over the years, including recent bowl games against Miami (2009), Florida State (2008), Arkansas (2006) and Auburn (2005). UW is 3-1 in those games and the result Saturday will be determined less by who is bigger or faster and more by who executes their style of play better.

TCU's defense is fast and swarming, but if the linebackers and safeties in defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas' 4-2-5 defense do not tackle well and fill the correct gaps against UW's powerful run game, team speed will be useless. If the Badgers' offensive line does not perform with the continuity seen over the last seven weeks of the regular season, or Wisconsin's stable of running backs do not make the proper reads and cuts, their size advantage will be negated.

It might sound obvious, but both teams have found overwhelming success by relying on fundamentally opposite schemes, and execution will be paramount.

Long Layoff

After having a month off between the end of the regular season and the Rose Bowl, both teams will have to deal with the possibility of being rusty, but both should also be healthy. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said Friday that the Badgers are not having any injury problems, and he expects everyone to be able to contribute.

Special Teams

Wisconsin found resurgence in the return game over the second half of the season as senior David Gilreath turned in several big-time returns, most notably a 97-yard touchdown to open UW's win against Ohio State Oct. 16. TCU also boasts a dynamic return man in Jeremy Kerley. The senior averaged 28.0 yards per kick return and 12.3 per punt return.

Although junior TCU kicker Evan Ross made 11 of his 13 field goal attempts this season, his longest of the year was 40 yards and he only attempted two over that distance all season. For comparison, UW junior kicker Phillip Welch is 8-for-11 on kicks between 40 and 49 yards, with his season long at 49. Both teams are expected to put up points, but if this becomes a defensive game, that could become a pertinent issue. With a competitive game expected, kicking could be a key factor in the outcome. Keep in mind that Wisconsin has blocked four kicks this year, with three coming from junior defensive end J.J. Watt.

Keeping the quarterbacks clean

There are great matchups galore in the trenches. Key among them will be senior TCU left tackle Marcus Cannon against Watt. The quarterbacks Wisconsin faced in the regular season boast a number of different styles, from Iowa's ultra-accurate Ricky Stanzi to dynamic playmakers such as Michigan's Denard Robinson and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor. Senior Horned Frog Andy Dalton, though, poses a unique blend of athleticism and passing ability. The front seven of Wisconsin will have to find a balance between slowing down TCU's seventh-ranked rushing offense while also containing the explosive Dalton.

For Wisconsin, a daunting run game, a mammoth offensive line and effective play-action fakes all combined to limit opposing defenses to just 12 sacks against senior quarterback Scott Tolzien this season. The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award winner completed a Big Ten record 74.3 percent of his passes this year, but if the Horned Frogs—who like to play their safeties close to the line of scrimmage for run support and quarterback pressure—can get to the Rolling Meadows, Ill., native on a regular basis, they can disrupt Wisconsin's offense.

 

 

 

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