In a rematch of their 2012 contest, the Pac-12 Champion No. 6 Oregon Ducks will face the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day.
In that holiday contest, Oregon won by a touchdown in a game that ended with a score of 45-38, just as Wisconsin was driving toward a potentially game-tying touchdown.
That’s one reason why the game is expected to be so widely watched. Another is the Rose Bowl — the Granddaddy of Them All — is only one of two bowl games with two teams ranked inside the top 10 outside of the College Football Playoff Semifinals.
“It’s the Rose Bowl,” said Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports. “It’s my favorite bowl game, and it always will be. Also, as typically happens, it’s an interesting matchup between two similar teams. Two good teams playing in one of the most picturesque settings in sport. What’s not to like?”
Yahoo Sports has ranked the game as the third best bowl behind the two playoff semifinals, noting that the matchup will feature two highly touted NFL prospects.
Neither team backed into the game. For at least a few weeks, the Rose Bowl was considered a best-case scenario for both squads, and there shouldn’t be any lack of motivation on either side. While bowl games across the board are becoming less meaningful outside of the playoff series, this one has maintained an aura of importance.
Wisconsin is coming off a 34-21 drubbing at the hands of the top-ranked Big Ten champs Ohio State Buckeyes. And, according to Paul Myberg of USA Today, there remains some sense of a missed opportunity stemming from Oregon’s largely avoidable loss to Arizona State last month.
Oregon fell out of the Top 10 after losing to the Sun Devils, but fought their way back up the ladder by defeating Utah to win the Pac-12 title.
“A win there would’ve sent the Ducks into Friday night’s Pac-12 championship with just one loss, making the date with Utah a potential play-in game for the playoff,” Myberg said. “What could’ve been. But the Ducks capitalized on the opportunity and pulled off a hugely impressive 37-15 win to salvage what should still be viewed as a successful finish: Oregon will head to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2015 and the seventh time in program history.”
Next year, Oregon’s Justin Herbert will enter the NFL draft as one of the top quarterback prospects. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is also expected to enter the NFL draft following the Rose Bowl.
Taylor has 1,909 rushing yards, the second most in the country. Taylor is seeking to become the first player since Ricky Williams to lead the country in rushing in back-to-back seasons, and just the second player in Division I history to rush for 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
Herbert is attempting to become the third quarterback to lead Oregon to a Rose Bowl win in the past 100 years. Standing 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and weighing 237 pounds, Herbert threw just five interceptions this year.
Wisconsin QB Jack Coan had just four turnovers this year. But both offenses could struggle. Oregon is ninth in scoring defense, allowing just 15.7 points per game, Wisconsin has the 10th best defense in the country, allowing 16.1 points per game.