Rose Bowl Preview: Wisconsin, Oregon and a Dynamic Rose Bowl for Once

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: The most pretentious bowl game in America, and it's not like there's a lack of competition in that area

The Sponsor: An HD television company, because that's how the young 40- and 50-somethings roll these days

The Teams: Wisconsin and Oregon

How Wisconsin got here: The biggest free-agent acquisition in college football since Cam Newton. Russell Wilson was spectacular for the Badgers, completing almost 73 percent of his passes for a gaudy 10.1-yard-per-attempt average and a jaw dropping 10-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio with 31 scores and three picks. He also ran for 320 yards and another five touchdowns, despite being on the same team as Heisman contender and record-setting running back Montee Ball. Oh, yeah, Ball -- he just ran for 1,759 yards and threatens to break Barry Sanders' record for rushing touchdowns in a season after setting the Big Ten mark with 32. By my count, there are 17 FBS teams who have not scored 32 total touchdowns on the season. Combine those players with a defense that allowed just 17 points a game, and you might wonder why the Badgers aren't playing for the national title. Upsets at Michigan State and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks would be the answer. Only one other team on the schedule (Illinois?) kept Wisconsin's point total below 35.

How Oregon got here: Running plays quickly. The hype about Oregon's up-tempo offense is largely true; the Ducks averaged 73.2 offensive plays per game and used it to score 46.2 points per game, best in the Pac-12 and third in the nation. They run for more than 295 yards a game and don't pass as much as other Pac-12 teams, but Darron Thomas is incredibly efficient (155.19 on the season) when they do. In Pac-12 terms, the defense is a bit better than average, but it doesn't matter much when the defense they're playing against is trying to react on the fly as Oregon zooms down the field. Were it not for the season-opening loss to LSU and a three-point defeat against Southern Cal, the Ducks would be playing in their second national-title game in as many years this season. As it is, Chip Kelly is still steering Oregon through perhaps the greatest period in program history, taking the Ducks to three straight BCS bowls. That's the longest active streak in the nation.

College football fans care because: The Rose Bowl might not be quite as important as it thinks it is, but it's still pretty important.

SEC fans care because: The number of games are declining dramatically at this point, so even a Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchup is worth your time.

Watch this game if...: You like offense.

The result: Wisconsin 42, Oregon 35

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