After a disappointing loss to TCU in last years Rose Bowl game, the 2011 B1G 10 Champion Wisconsin Badgers will get a second chance in Pasadena. Since the Barry Alvarez era began in 1990, Wisconsin has won three Rose Bowl’s and will be appearing in their fifth since 1994 on January 2nd, 2012 against Oregon.
It took the Badgers program a long time to win their first-ever Rose Bowl. Finally, after years of frustration, Alvarez led his 1993-94 group to the promise land for the first time in school history. In fact, under Barry Alvarez the Badgers were 3-0 in Rose Bowl games. The man who revolutionized the program passed it on to his predecessor Bret Bielema who has yet to win the big game. Questions will arise if Bielema can’t win the big game because Wisconsin couldn’t contain Oregon’s high-powered offensive attack. Surely, this is Bielema’s shot at redemption in the eyes of Wisconsin fans everywhere.
Wisconsin has become a national power over the last decade and a half, thanks in large part to Alvarez and Tom Osbourne. The former Nebraska coach you ask? Yes, exactly. Osbourne is actually the man who taught Barry Alvarez the ropes and how to win in college football. Alvarez learned quickly that the answer to contending annually in college football was by building around a dominant run game like Nebraksa did for so many years. Since the Badgers have inherited the blackshirts way, they have seen nothing but success.
The Badgers were two Hail Mary passes away from being in the BCS National Championship against No. 1 LSU (12-0) this season. However, the breaks did not all fall in the Badgers direction, but they made the most out of it by earning a trip to Pasadena. The rest of the 2011 campaign, has by most estimations, been flawless by the Badgers. They are running on all cylinders and have been for most of the year.
Wisconsin not only was contending for a national title appearance, but they boast two Heisman candidates. Russell Wilson took the nation by storm early in the season after his transfer from NC State during his senior season. Montee Ball has set the college football world on fire with his FBS-leading 38 total touchdowns this year, just one TD shy of the all-time mark set by Barry Sanders. The Badgers are winning and doing it at unprecedented new heights. Truly, the Badgers are a powerhouse program on the rise.
If Bret Bielema and company are looking to lock themselves into Wisconsin history, then they better start by beating Oregon in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks feature the most explosive spread offense in the nation and will have the Badgers on their toes all game. However, Wisconsin’s offense is good enough to keep up with the Ducks, as long as the Badgers stick to their strength and pound the rock. We saw them get away from their dominant running game in last years Rose Bowl versus TCU, and it eventually cost them the game. This year, they must stick to what they know best…running Montee Ball, play-action passing by Wilson and capitalizing off opponents turnovers. If Wisconsin wins in these three phases of the match-up, Bielema may be staring up at a 1-1 career record in the Rose Bowl and the Badgers would be 4-1 in Pasadena since 1994.