WHO: Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)
WHAT: The 106th Rose Bowl
WHEN: January 1st at 5:10 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
THE SKINNY: What better way to ring in a new year — heck, a new decade — than with ‘The Granddaddy of Them All?’ This year’s edition of Pac-12 vs. Big Ten under the afternoon glow in Southern California is particularly lovely as two regular visitors to the Rose Bowl meet for the first time in eight years.
“All the bowl games we’ve been able to go to, you appreciate and they’re great experiences. And yet this one is special,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst remarked at Media Day. “You know you’re going to face a great team. It’s in maybe the one of the best if not the best settings in all of football, nonetheless college football. And when we found out we had an opportunity to play in it, I was really excited for our players, because it is a heck of an experience. And now it’s our job coming up here where we’ve got to make the most of that.”
The Badgers are not going to surprise you by any means because they do so many of the fundamental things well. They run the ball behind Doak Walker Award winner Jonathan Taylor, who likely will cap off his record-breaking career in style out in Pasadena. Their offensive line is one of the best in the country and the defense ranks in the top 10 nationally in most major categories. While they inexplicably lost to Illinois earlier this season, they also won the Big Ten West and suffered their only two other losses to Playoff-bound Ohio State.
“They’re just the best team we’ve faced all year, without a doubt, in all phases, all areas,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said Monday. “They’re very well-coached. That’s a disciplined, tough football team that’s complemented with great athleticism, guys that have range, guys that can cover man-to-man. Guys that can play multiple schemes, multiple coverages, stunts and pressures. They present a lot of challenges and our guys are looking forward to that.”
Cristobal’s own team isn’t quite a mirror image of the opponent but they do take a number of traits from them, including building around both lines of scrimmage. Oregon’s offensive line features the best lineman in the country in sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell and have paved the way for a number of tailbacks as the year has worn on. They’ve also done a great job of protecting quarterback Justin Herbert, a potential first-round pick and Eugene native who is hoping to close out his days in a Ducks uniform with a win in the game that means just a little bit more to all involved.
The last time these two programs met on the hallowed ground under the San Gabriel Mountains, Russell Wilson nearly led an epic comeback over Chip Kelly’s Ducks but came up just short in a 45-38 thriller. Both defenses should make this one a lot lower scoring than that 2012 edition but we could see a similar back-and-forth between two of the most physical teams in the country facing off against each other. Oregon was slightly more consistent in 2019 than their Midwest counterparts though so they get the slight edge to ring in the New Year with a win and cap the season off in style.
THE PICK: Oregon 27, Wisconsin 24