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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, December 11, 2023
Montee Ball

Junior runningback Montee Ball will look to punish the Oregon line in the Rose Bowl.

Football: Return to the Roses

Many times, football games are billed as potential shoot-outs and then fail to live up to the high-scoring hype.

That should not be a problem on Jan. 2 in Pasadena, Cal.

In Wisconsin and Oregon, the 98th edition of the Rose Bowl features two of the most prolific-and two of the most opposite-offenses in the country.

The No. 5 Ducks (8-1 Pac 12, 11-2 overall) employ a multitude of weapons predicated on speed, speed a breakneck pace and more speed.

"Their normal no huddle is very fast-paced, up tempo," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "Then they have an extremely quick one where you can really see they've caught not only defenses but referees in difficult situations."

Bielema and defensive coordinator Chris Ash will likely have to decided whether to stay in the base 4-3 defense or play more nickel through the game. In the base, senior linebacker Kevin Claxton plays on the strong side, while freshman corner back Peniel Jean is the nickel corner. Bielema said the NCAA rules on substitutions should help Wisconsin.

"There is a rule in college football ... that if they sub you have an opportunity to sub as well," Bielema said. "You just have to make sure the officials are on the same page as you."

The Ducks do plenty of damage on the ground, featuring a dynamic running duo of juniors LaMichael James (1,646 yards, 17 TDs) and Kenjon Barner (909, 11). Each averages over 6.5 yards per carry. James was a Heisman finalist in 2010 and finished fourth in the country in rushing yards despite missing two games with an elbow injury.

"For us, if we can tackle in the open field, (that's) going to be a key whether James is in or not," Henry said. "The Barner kid, if he gets in the open field he can take one back."

Junior quarterback Darron Thomas engineers the offense and has accumulated 2493 yards and 30 touchdowns in head coach Chip Kelley's high-octane system.

The Badgers counter with just about the opposite style offensively, employing their more traditional pro-style offense to create opportunities.

The Ducks' starting defensive line averages 272 pounds while the Badgers' offensive line averages 322.

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"Their two edge players, (junior Dion Jordan and senior Josh Kaddu) are very talented, their safeties are very aggressive, they're a team that likes to move a lot and do different things," Bielema said. "It's definitely something unique to us. I can't really say they're like ... anyone in the Big Ten."

Both defenses will likely feel underappreciated by the time Jan. 2 rolls around, as Oregon (46.2 points per game) and Wisconsin, (44.6) rank third and fourth in scoring in the nation.

The two teams have also combined to lose the last two Rose Bowls. UW dropped a 21-19 thriller against Texas Christian last year and Oregon fell to Ohio State in 2010.

Junior Badgers running back Montee Ball (2,004 total yards and 38 total TDs) said he thought the Badgers got caught up in the hoopla surrounding the game last year.

"Last year we didn't do a great job of blocking out the distractions," Ball said. "We really didn't focus on the reason why we're in LA, so that's what we're going to do this year."

Ball will likely be playing in his final game for the Badgers, as he and redshirt junior Peter Konz will weigh National Football League careers against senior seasons this spring. If he leaves, he will join a decorated senior class that has 39 wins under Bielema. Henry said he knows how he would like the script to end.

"Going out to there to the Rose Bowl for the second time in a row and having a chance to go out and cap this thing off right, it's going to be stellar," he said. "It's going to be special, and I wouldn't want to go out any other way."

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