Rose Bowl 2014 Preview: Stanford Cardinal vs. Michigan State Spartans

Robert Laberge

I feel sore already just from thinking about this one.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, Wednesday, 5:00 pm ET, ESPN

Suggested slogan: First team to 13 wins

The teams: Stanford Cardinal and Michigan State Spartans

How Stanford got here: The story of the Cardinal's arrival is one of missed opportunities. There is no real reason why Stanford shouldn't be in the national title game right now, except for the fact it has two losses. One was to USC, which at least won 10 games. The other is to Utah, a squad that would have finished 4-8 without its win over the Cardinal. Given Stanford's very high strength of schedule and its far higher preseason rank, it likely would be attending the other game in Pasadena if not for that inexplicable stumble in Salt Lake. As for the team itself, it's cut from the same cloth as other recent Stanford teams. Tyler Gaffney is a workhorse at running back, as he went over the 1,600-yard mark, and Shane Skov is a linebacker with bad intentions who leads the defense. It's tough, aggressive, and will punish opponents physically.

How Michigan State got here: MSU is in a similar boat as Stanford is as far as missed opportunities go. The team's sole loss came to a decent, but far from great, Notre Dame team back in September. It was merely a 17-13 final, and had the Spartans won that one, they'd be facing Florida State instead of Auburn. Oh well. Like with Stanford, Sparty is similar to other recent incarnations. It's all about the defense, which was one of the best in the country all around. Jeremy Langford, a 1,300-yard rusher himself, is the offense's best player, while Connor Cook has provided some consistency at quarterback that the position has lacked in East Lansing.

College football fans care because: It's the Grandaddy of them All, both of these teams are really good, and it will help settle the debate about which team would have been more deserving for the No. 4 spot had we had the playoff this year.

SEC fans care because: Did you miss good old fashioned SEC football this year? Here's your chance to see it, basically.

Watch this game if: You love smash mouth football and long for the days before "spread offense" was a term everyone knew.

Bottom line: Both of these teams run a similar style, that being one where they try to wear down opponents, so don't expect a Chick-fil-A Bowl-style point extravaganza. Stanford is probably the better team when both are playing their best, but it's been somewhat inconsistent what with the loss to Utah and close scrapes with Notre Dame and Oregon State. Michigan State's defense is the best unit on the field, but finals like 21-6 over USF and 14-0 over Purdue don't inspire confidence despite the team's one-loss record. Stanford is the better team, but will it truly play like it? That's the big question.

Brandon's pick: Michigan State 17, Stanford 13

LineStanford by 6.5

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