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January 2, 2012

Tom's take: A rosy prediction

PASADENA - I have just about had it with the speed-slough argument. Okay, Oregon is fast and Wisconsin is more methodical. I understand that. And I won't really dispute it.

Knowing there is such a supposed difference in speed between these two teams it seems as though everybody, their brother, their uncle, girlfriend and just about everyone in between that knows or cares about the 98th edition of the Rose Bowl is picking Oregon.

That's totally fine.

Opinions are meant to be different and they're meant to stir debate, talk - - trash talk, sweet talk and baby talk are all included - - anguish and disdain. They're supposed to be polarizing.

So I'm fine with anybody that picks Oregon in this game. They are, after all, the nation's fifth best team in the country and one that averages 46.2 points per game (third best nationally), wears the cool uniforms (including a helmet for this game that essentially serves as a mirror) and was just a play or two away from playing the 2011 season as the nation's defending champion.

But this same Oregon team has some inadequacies. I'm really not sure what those deficiencies are, other than a relatively weak defense that allows opponents to score better than 23 points per game, but they're there.

Don't get me wrong, Wisconsin has plenty of issues itself. It has an incredibly spotty defense that still has communication errors cropping up this late in the season. It has a kickoff coverage unit that might as well tie cinder blocks around its ankles because the players look slow and disorganized during those specific plays.

But they also have two of the top 10 vote getters for the Heisman trophy in Montee Ball and Russell Wilson. They have nine first team All-Big Ten players and about a month to prepare for an Oregon team that makes its living preying on teams that only have five days to simulate its speed and style of play.

In fact, three of the past four teams that have had an extended prep time to get ready for the Ducks have sent Oregon back to Eugene with its head firmly dunked under water.

Teams have had an ability to figure out ways to slow the Ducks with that extended time. Teams have also had an ability to figure out ways to slow the Badgers with extended time. So though that characteristic is a wash entering this game, it's notable because it suggests Oregon, and it's high speed offense, can be slowed down.

And I haven't even begun to discuss the underdog role the Badgers typically strive under.

Remember when nobody thought Wisconsin stood a snowball in a Florida summer chance against Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl? Remember how that turned out?

Or what about when Barry Alvarez was going to finish his legendary coaching career with back-to-back losses in 2005, only to go out and throttle Auburn. Or what about when Bret Bielema's first team beat an Arkansas team led by Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis?

I guess my main point is that I don't have a point specific to this season, other than to base a feeling off what I've seen.

There's just something about this Wisconsin team. There's something about the determination and matter-of-factness Montee Ball speaks with. There's something about the way Chris Borland is approaching this week and a game he had the misfortune of missing a year ago.

There's something about the culmination of the short, potentially great, Russell Wilson era.

There's something about the cardinal and white playing in a Rosy backdrop with it's school colors prominently displayed throughout a stadium that holds more than 100,000 people.

There's something about the calm and serenity surrounding this environment and something about this season (two Hail Mary losses to name a few) that seems to favor good karma joining Wisconsin's side.

Call me crazy, but I'm picking the Badgers. And I'm picking them to win 37-30.

Like Lloyd Christmas said in Dumb and Dumber, 'So you're saying there's a chance?'

Yes Lloyd, there is. As long as you provide me an opportunity to join the minority with you.


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