Pasadena, CA (WQOW) -- Both Wisconsin and Stanford have experience with the added attention that comes with playing in a Rose Bowl. The Badgers and Cardinal are each making their third-straight appearance in a BCS game.
Wisconsin gets some good news on the injury front Thursday. Freshman quarterback Joel Stave has been cleared to play in the Rose Bowl. Stave started six games for Wisconsin before breaking his collarbone against Michigan State. Barry Alvarez has said Stave would play, but Curt Phillips will still get the start.
Wisconsin's opponent, Stanford, is one of the top academic universities in the United State, but when it comes to football, the Cardinal can still get very physical.
"I know the perception about Stanford, it's out there. In terms of it being out there on a farm and in terms of our student athletes with the intelligence factor. But let me tell you something, when you talk about playing football, these guys play football," says Derek Mason, Stanford's defensive coordinator. "They are football junkies. They love football. They bleed red and they practice hard, as hard as any group I've ever coached. NFL, college, or any other group. This is a prideful group. This group works very hard at just doing the little things."
There's an interesting match up brewing within the game. Wisconsin's rushing offense averages around 238 yards per game, but the Stanford defense only allows around 88 yards per game, good for third best in the country.
"My philosophy and my thing is, the offensive lineman know that everything starts up front with the. They kind of understand that. They bring the energy and level of focus to practice because they know that without them, this team would really struggle. Based on film, we can really see that Stanford takes a lot of pride in their d-line, in creating a lot of great plays. And we're hoping that we come out on top," says senior running back Montee Ball.
Junior James White agrees: "This is going to be a physical football game, and like Montee said, it starts with our offensive lineman. They have a great defensive line, we have a great offensive line, so it'll be a physical game and it'll be a great battle between those two."
With so much attention paid to stopping Wisconsin's running game, the Badgers vertical threats think there might some opportunities for a big play.
"When we do throw the ball, which isn't a lot, you have to make sure you come down with the ball. So you just take advantage of the opportunities," says junior receiver Jared Abbrederis. "But we're also involved in the run game too, so we have to do our best as wide receivers to get blocking downfield to create those long runs when the line does give them the opportunity to get to the next level. So we just take advantage of every opportunity we get when we do get those."
Starting quarterback Curt Phillips has been forced to miss the last two Rose Bowls because of injury, but says he is looking forward to lacing them up on New Year's day.
"I'm excited about it. I think it's that much more special for me because I had to work to come back and wasn't able to be a part of it the last two years. It's an awesome experience. Being able to come out here is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fortunately we've been here three times now, so we want to make the most of it," say Phillips.
The last time we saw the Wisconsin offense in game action, the Badgers were hanging 70 points on Nebraska. A fact that did not escape the Stanford defense.
I definitely don't want to speak for Wisconsin, but when you talk about playing an opponent twice like Nebraska, much like we had to do against UCLA, it's a tough task. You look at things that you've done before, and you look to modify and tweak the things you do. But that last game, you look at Wisconsin, that's a dominate performance. That's the Wisconsin that we've all grown to know and respect. Really, for our group, we looked at the Nebraska game and said - that's Wisconsin. That's who we're going to face," adds Mason. They're in the midst of having a chance to win a Rose Bowl, and that's what they came out here to do. So when you look at this Wisconsin group, they're better than good. They're exactly as advertised. That's why they are sitting here in the Rose Bowl.
WQOW-News 18 will have Rose Bowl reports from Pasadena leading up to the big game.
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