Stanford Cardinal head coach Shaw lifts a Pac-12 Championship trophy after defeating UCLA Bruins in Palo Alto

Predictions 101 — Rose Bowl


No. 8 Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Tues., Jan. 1 – 5 p.m. ET, ABC
Pasadena, Calif. – Rose Bowl

Stanford and Wisconsin players will feel like they’re looking at themselves during film review sessions and when they hit the field on New Year’s Day.

This has less to do with the fact that both teams share the same cardinal and white color scheme and more that they play the same way.

The Cardinal would feel right at home in the Big Ten, where the Badgers are part of the old guard, sticking to traditional ways while others get sucked into this business of speeding up and spreading out.

Yup, the 99th edition of the Granddaddy of Them All will be your father’s football game and we love it.

Both teams have their heavy duty hammers.

Playing in its third consecutive Rose Bowl — but without coach Bret Bielema (Woo pig sooie!) who will be replaced by AD/interim coach Barry Alvarez — Wisconsin (8-5) will swing away with senior tailback Montee Ball, who has carried the football 900 times in his career for 5,040 yards and 76 rushing touchdowns. Yowza.

Pac-12 champion Stanford (11-2) has a similar senior weapon in Stepfan Taylor, who has 823 career carries for 4,212 yards and 39 scores.

The other key part of the backfields present differing stories.

Badger quarterback Curt Phillips is mainly under center to take snaps and hand off. The senior threw just eight passes in Wisconsin’s 70-31 thrashing of Nebraska in the Big Ten title game. Phillips did complete six of those attempts, but who’s really counting those things when your team rushes for 539 yards?

Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan, who got inserted into the lineup in the middle of the season, is just a freshman, but plays like a grizzled vet. He has led Stanford to five consecutive wins, including a monumental 17-14 overtime victory at Oregon and back-to-back victories over UCLA with division and conference titles on the line. This upcoming occasion doesn’t figure to be too big for the youngster.

Wisconsin ranks 12th nationally in rushing offense and 111th in passing. This plays right into the hands of Stanford, which owns the country’s third best rushing defense, allowing just 87.7 yards per game on the ground.

Ball will get his yards and maybe a score or two, but it won’t be enough to overtake the Cardinal, especially if it’s a close game.

Seven of Stanford’s 11 victories have been by seven points or less and it won two of its three overtime games (the only loss was that questionable one in South Bend).

All five of Wisconsin’s losses were by a touchdown or less (four by three points) and the Badgers dropped a trio of overtime games down the stretch.

Opening point spread: Stanford by 6 1/2

The pick: Stanford 24-17

Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.

When did Nick Saban realize he missed college football? His ‘first press conference’ in Miami

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban watches play   against the   Carolina Panthers   September 25, 2005 in Miami.  The Dolphins defeated the Panthers 27  to 24.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Yeah, he’s playing to, using the vernacular of the political season, his very fervent base, but it’s still not the least bit surprising.

When Nick Saban left LSU for the job with the Miami Dolphins in 2004, there were more than a couple of observers who were surprised the coach would leave the college game to get back into the NFL. When Saban, after infamously denying it, left the Dolphins to take the job at Alabama after just two seasons, there were more than a couple of observers who were not surprised the coach made such a decision.

Why? Because Saban just seemed like a coach who could relate better to — some would say control more — college players than those in the NFL. With Verne Lundquist serving as a guest on Saban’s weekly radio show Thursday night, the retiring college football broadcaster asked the Alabama head coach, writes, “when in his Miami Dolphins tenure he realized he missed coaching college football?”

Saban’s answer was illuminating…

“Well, the day I landed in Miami and went to the first press conference,” Saban said. “I started to realize the difference between the NFL then and what the NFL was like before when I was in it with Bill Belichick from 1991-94 in Cleveland, before we had free agency, before the media had infiltrated sorta everything that was happening. I guess right then.”

… but not as illuminating as the coach, once again, addressing his version of the Drew Brees situation as it relates to the level control, or lack thereof, in the NFL compared to what he has in Tuscaloosa.

“When [the Brees situation] happened, I said I can’t control my destiny here,” Saban said. “I can’t control my destiny here. There’s too many things that, no matter how hard I work or no matter what I do, I can control my destiny better in college by working hard and making good choices and decisions and creating a good program for players. I think that happening made me lean back to coming back to college.”

Yes, Saban may have, in the eyes of some, unfinished business in the NFL. At 64 years old — he’ll be 65 Oct. 31 — don’t expect him, though, to at any point in the near or distant future to rectify that “hole” in his coaching résumé.

Long-time starting guard ruled out by Tar Heels for rest of season

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 17:  Quinshad Davis #14 and Caleb Peterson #70 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after a touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As it turns out, the short-term hit North Carolina took to its offensive line last weekend will turn into a long-turn one.

Caleb Peterson (pictured, being uplifted) suffered a back injury earlier this month that kept him out of both the Virginia Tech (Oct. 8) and Miami (Oct. 15) games. Thursday night, the school announced that the offensive lineman will undergo surgery Friday at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas.

As a result, the senior guard will miss the remainder of the 2016 season. Peterson used his redshirt in 2012 and isn’t eligible for any type of waiver, meaning the 6-5, 300-pound lineman has likely seen his collegiate playing career come to an end.

In his Tar Heel career, Peterson had started a total of 42 games. He had a streak of 30 straight starts snapped when he missed the Tech game.

Following the 2015 season, Peterson was named second-team All-ACC by the league’s coaches.

In addition to Peterson, the football program also announced that Jonathan Smith underwent season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a fracture in his right foot. The freshman linebacker initially suffered the injury during practice in the week leading up to the game against the Hokies.

A three-star member of UNC’s 2016 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 21 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 25 player at any position in the state of North Carolina. He had appeared in six games as a true freshman this season, and was credited with one tackle.

Beavers dealing with injury issues in their backfield

Oregon State running back Ryan Nall, right, looks back at California cornerback Darius Allensworth, left, during an 80-yard touchdown run in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)
Associated Press
Leave a comment

It’s looking more and more likely that Oregon State will be at less than full strength in their backfield when they line up against No. 5 Washington Saturday evening.

Leading rusher Ryan Nall aggravated a foot injury in last Saturday’s loss after just one carry and is officially listed as doubtful for the game against the Huskies. Nall did not practice Thursday and was still wearing a boot to protect the injured foot.

Additionally, Nall’s backup, Artavis Pierce, is dealing with a stinger and did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media, The Oregonian reported.

Nall currently leads the Beavers with 464 yards and six rushing touchdowns. He’s also third on the team with 13 receptions.

Pierce is second behind Nall with 262 yards.

If neither Nall nor Pierce are available, the bulk of the running game load would be shouldered by Tim Cook. The senior has carried the ball nine times this season for 22 yards.

TE Trey Dunkelberger set to transfer from Syracuse

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 08: The Syracuse Orange mascot with the cheerleaders during a game against the USC Trojans at MetLife Stadium on September 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Trey Dunkelberger changed positions earlier this year during spring practice. Seven months or so later, he’s changing programs.

The website JUCO Football Frenzy reported Wednesday that Dunkelberger had decided to transfer from Syracuse. The tight end “confirmed” the move in the form of retweeting the site’s original tweet.

The Syracuse Post-Standard subsequently confirmed the initial report via a text from the player himself, although the football program has yet to address the player’s status with the team moving forward.

Dunkelberger will be leaving the Orange as a graduate transfer, meaning he could move on to another FBS program and be eligible to play immediately in 2017. Next season will be his final year of eligibility.

After playing in one game last season, Dunkelberger has not seen the field yet on 2016. He moved from tight end to defensive end during spring practice, then back to tight end in summer camp.