Pasadena, CA (WQOW) -- No team has made more trips to the Rose Bowl since 1998 than Wisconsin. But while the Badgers won the first three, the team has not been so lucky the past two years.
To win this time around, Wisconsin will need to match Stanford's physical offense. The Cardinal is averaging 28.5 points per game, while the Wisconsin defense is giving up just 19.1 points per game.
"Well, at the end of the day the number one goal is to win games. At the end of the season we've won more games than we've lost. For us to measure whether we're improving or playing good defense, it's all about scoring defense. How many points to do you give up at the end of the day. You want to make sure you give up fewer points than our opponent," says Wisconsin co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash. "Our goal, we want to give up 17 points or less. We've been pretty good at that throughout the course of the season. I'm happy with how our guys have improved from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. They've really bought in to what we are coaching and teaching. They have great chemistry, they don't beat themselves, we don't give up big plays like we were earlier in the season, so I'm really happy with the improvement. I'm happy with the total number of points that we average giving up per game. Would I like to have seen us make a few more plays in the close games? Yeah, absolutely, and they would have made a difference."
Stanford is known for being physical up front. That starts with the rushing game, which features a dangerous running back in Stepfan Taylor. Taylor has 1,442 rushing yards this season.
Junior linebacker Chris Borland says Wisconsin is ready for a physical contest, saying: "We play this brand of football and we love playing it as players on defense. We get to go against it every day in practice, so we're trained for it and we enjoy it.
"I think it's just been consistency. I think we've been a lot better with being everywhere we're supposed to be when we're supposed to be there," says senior safety Shelton Johnson. "That's when those big plays happen, when somebody tries to do too much or doesn't do the exact right thing where they're supposed to be and it just puts the whole defense in a funk. So everyone just being consistent with what they do and doing the right thing at the right time, I think it eliminates those big plays all together.
Wisconsin and Stanford have similarities at the quarterback position. Both switched out starting quarterbacks during the season. The Cardinal switched to redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan, who led Stanford to four-straight wins over ranked opponents.
"His talent, his natural instincts and talents, are really what give him the chance to be successful on offense, and to say I've been surprised would be an understatement. I knew he had the talent, but the poise that he's shown in the four-game stretch that he's played has been tremendous," says Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
"When I get in there, just try not to force anything, protect the ball as much as I could, and just let the guys around me do their jobs, and play ball, adds Hogan. "Just get the ball to Stepfan, get the ball to the receivers, tight ends, and try not to force anything."
Wisconsin junior defensive end Ethan Hemer says Hogan presents some challenges:"A Quarterback like Kevin Hogan, defenses need to be disciplined in their assignments and alignments. We need to pass rush aggressively, but maintain the pocket presence, I guess is the best way to put it. We don't want to give him opportunities to sneak through, we don't want to give him chances to escape pockets. A big focus for us will be keeping him contained, and then making him feel our presence."
Another Stanford player to watch is running back Stepfan Taylor, the first running back from the program to eclipse 1,000 yards in three-straight seasons.
"Well, obviously he's a very physical back, very productive this year, and the biggest advantage we've had this year is just the opportunity," says Wisconsin co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge. Because of the similarities, to do good on good, to play ones versus ones, get the speed of the game, that's the biggest advantage we have. From D-line against O-line, backers against all the potential blockers, and obviously going against Montee also makes a big difference kind of across the board."
Taking in the practice was newly hired head coach Gary Andersen. Andersen says he was there as an observer, but was impressed with what he saw.
"These guys practice smart, the coaches do a tremendous of putting them in a position to get them to the game," says Andersen. " August 7th was a long time ago, they're a good,clean, crisp, fast practices the way they should be right now. You get an evaluation of just seeing what kids look like right now and how they carry themselves. It was a great day to sit back and watch the kids come out and practice, and they're banging around, a good physical day, and just observing and learning a lot about them as we move forward so it's a good quality day."
WQOW-News 18 will have Rose Bowl reports from Pasadena leading up to the big game.
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