(CBSLA)- The game known as “The Granddaddy of Them All” is in for an intriguing matchup matchup of top 10s this year. The Pac-12 champion #6 Oregon Ducks will take on the #8 Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual to open up the New Year on January 1, 2020.
These two teams don’t see each other often. In fact, the last matchup also came in the Rose Bowl back in 2011, and SportsLine’s “Wizard of Odds” Kenny White notes that “both teams were ranked in the Top 25, Oregon won that game 45-38.” It would be surprising to see a similarly high-scoring game this time around, because the teams are built very similarly. Strong running games with lock-down defenses.
“This Oregon team has out-rushed their opponents in eight straight games. They really bank on that offensive line. That is what they are going to try to do. They are going to try to control the line of scrimmage,” said White. “And, we all know the Wisconsin Badger program has been built on fundamentals of blocking and tackling. They play solid defense, but they love to run the football. And they have a guy of their own who was in the Heisman Trophy talks early in the year in Jonathan Taylor. I think both teams are going to try to control the running game first.”
Under head coach Mario Cristobal, the Ducks have emphasized more physicality in their game on both sides of the ball, and it has come through on offense. With a receiver corps decimated by injuries, Oregon relied more on its running game (36 attempts per game) than on its NFL-bound QB Justin Herbert (32.7 attempts per game). The results were good. The Ducks averaged 5.1 yards per carry and 185.8 yards per game, with lead back CJ Verdell averaging over six yards per tote.
While the Ducks offensive line has mauled people all season, the Badgers present a different challenge. Coordinator Jim Leonhard uses a different defensive style, almost a 2-4-5 with a pair of linebackers replacing the traditional hand-in-the-ground defensive ends. That makes it difficult to understand which guys are rushing and which will be dropping back leading to a unit that allowed just 4.6 yards per play and 16.1 points per game to their opponents this year. A fascinating battle will come on third downs, where the Ducks convert 42% of the time while the Badgers allow opponents to convert just 27%.
A very similar story can be told when Wisconsin has the ball. The Badgers rushing attack, led by NFL-bound tailback Jonathan Taylor, has crushed opponents to the tune of 5.5 yards per carry and 241 yards per game on 43 attempts. Needless to say, they are even more ground-heavy than the Ducks. Oregon’s defense, led by stud freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux, has been stout against opponents rushing attacks. The Ducks allow just 3.3 yards per carry and 108 yards per game on the ground.
So, which rushing attack will come out on top? Kenny believes it’s the Badgers’ turn to get some revenge.
“The Pac-12 has struggled so mightily in these bowl games, 10-22 ATS the last four years. I can’t trust them,” said White. “I like Wisconsin here. I think Wisconsin gets their payback, and they win this one.”
Vegas has installed the Badgers as three-point favorites as of this writing. One note, however, if each team is able to slow the other’s running game, the advantage in the passing game goes to Oregon. Even though Herbert doesn’t have a full complement of receivers, he is clearly the better passer over Wisconsin’s Jack Coan.