The 2013 Rose Bowl features the Wisconsin Badgers power rushing attack against the stout run defense of the Stanford Cardinal, which is the matchup that will decide the game.
The Badgers are fortunate to be in their third straight Rose Bowl, as they were the chief beneficiaries of the NCAA penalties levied on Ohio State and Penn State. Due to the those two schools being ineligible to play in the Big Ten championship game, Wisconsin was the next team in line to represent the Leaders division.
In the conference championship game, the Badgers used their vaunted rushing attack to steamroll the Nebraska Cornhuskers 70-31. Led by Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball, Wisconsin compiled 539 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
For the Badgers to beat Stanford, they will need to dominate on the ground for the second straight game.
The problem is the Cardinal rush defense is ranked third against the run, while Nebraska's run defense is just 96th. Clearly, Stanford's run defense will be a tougher nut to crack, but the Badgers have the personnel and playing style to get the job done.
The Badgers averaged 237.8 yards per game on the ground this season, which has them ranked 12th nationally.
In the Badgers' five losses, they failed to average four yards per carry, which is often the benchmark of a solid ground attack. Without an effective rushing attack, the Wisconsin offense has proven to be inept.
The only team Stanford has faced with a more proficient rushing attack is the Oregon Ducks, although the Ducks rushing attack is speed-based rather than power-based.
With their power rushing attack, the Badgers have an opportunity to overwhelm Stanford because the Cardinal haven't seen anything like it.
The game will be decided in the trenches, which is good for the Badgers because their offensive line has improved by leaps and bounds since the beginning of the season. The Cardinal defense is accustomed to slowing down the strong passing attacks in the Pac-12, which will be an advantage for the Badgers' big offensive line.
Stanford's defense is fundamentally sound and will provide the biggest challenge the Wisconsin rushing attack has faced this season.
The Badgers will need senior quarterback Curt Phillips to keep the opposing defense honest, but he needs the rushing attack to be successful.
Without a proven signal-caller under center, Wisconsin finished the season ranked 115th nationally in passing offense. Such a stagnant passing attack made it more difficult for the Badgers rushing attack, even if the ground game has been proficient regardless.
Due to their potent run defense, Stanford is expected to win this game. The Wisconsin rushing attack has a chance to shock the nation, which is exactly what will happen.
With a physical offensive line and a lethal one-two running back combination of Ball and Gordon, the Badgers ground attack will be productive enough to lead them to an upset victory.
Wisconsin will not find success on every carry, but it's imperative they keep the ball on the ground in order to win their first Rose Bowl since the 1999-00 season.