The regular season has wrapped up, and we are in the middle of the most action packed week of the college football season: Bowl Week. But the bowls on everyone’s minds are just around the corner, and we are providing extensive previews for all the BCS Bowls. Today, we are previewing the Rose Bowl, where Big Ten Champions Michigan State will do battle with the Stanford Cardinal, the champions from the Pac-12. Let’s dive into it.
Game Overview: Michigan State shocked the world when they upset Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, handing the Buckeyes their first loss in two years. Not only that, but they cost the Buckeyes a shot at the BCS National Title. Now, the Spartans are prepping for a Stanford team that has had an up and down year. The Cardinal shot out to a 5-0 start, including two wins over ranked teams, before one of the most shocking results in all of college football: a head scratching 27-21 loss at Utah. Then they bounced back with a dominating performance over Oregon, before once again falling to an unranked team: USC. However, the Cardinal closed the season out strong with a 38-14 statement win over Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship.
Meanwhile, Michigan State was a 17-13 Notre Dame loss away from being the one who was playing for a National Title spot in the Big Ten Championship. The knock on the Spartans is that they’ve played a soft schedule, with Notre Dame and Michigan being their only ranked opponents before their big Ohio State win a few weeks ago. The big question is whether the speed of the Spartan offense will be able to overcome the brute force of the Cardinal defense.
How Michigan State Can Win: The first thing that stands out for Michigan State is their defense, one of the best in the nation. Amazingly, the Spartans have had not one, not two, but SIX games where they allowed less than seven points, including a dominating 29-6 home victory over Michigan. In order for the Spartans to win the Rose Bowl, they will need to hold Stanford down, probably to under 21 points. This could be a tall order, as Stanford’s low score on the year was 17 in their loss to USC. Stanford will be the biggest team that Michigan State has played all year, so the Spartans better be prepared for a big and brutal 60 minutes of football.
How Stanford Can Win: It’s no secret that Stanford struggles on the road. Their two losses came at Utah, and at USC, and the Cardinal will be close to that when they travel to Pasadena for this game. However, Stanford figures to have a slight advantage with the sheer number of fans, which will help the Cardinal out. As they have all year, the Cardinal will live and die by Tyler Gaffney, who has run for over 1,600 yards and and 20 touchdowns. On the defensive side, Stanford knows how to pressure the Quarterback. They are tied for the lead in the nation with 40 sacks, or just under four a game. The game, as unsexy as it sounds, will likely come down to the battle of the Stanford defensive line vs. the Michigan State offensive line. At the moment, I have to say: advantage Stanford.
Our Prediction: This game has the makings of an instant classic. It’s a battle of two different playing styles, but more importantly, it’s a battle of two great defenses. While I think both offenses are capable of scoring in the high 20’s, I think the game could be decided by a huge defensive play. I think both teams will get off to a slow start with the extended break between games, and the winner could be the first team to brush off the rust. Given the location of the game, and the Stanford front seven, which could arguably be the best in the nation, I’m giving the slight edge to Stanford. The Cardinal win 24-20 in a close and fantastic game that should go down to the wire.
Who do you think will win the Rose Bowl? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!