Who wins the Rose Bowl? Depends on which Bucky shows up
Three hours and change until kickoff in Pasadena.
Wisconsin fans, unaccustomed as we were for decades to the privilege of a Rose Bowl, come into this afternoon's game with a new appreciation for the chance and fresh eyes on the team that made this trip.
Bret Bielema got the squad this far, then left for Arkansas. A.D. Barry Alvarez is gladly filling the void with swagger, shorter practices and not-so-gentle jabs at his bolted protege. All those Badgers fans who never warmed up to Bielema feel vindicated by his hasty departure and dismissal of Wisconsin as a place that can't win a national championship.
Pig suey THIS, Mr. Bielema.
The experts on the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader In Sports declare, to a person, that Wisconsin has no chance this afternoon against Stanford. The Cardinal, they say, will win the battle in the trenches and match Bucky's run game with a ground attack of their own. And then, there's the quarterbacking: Curt Philips starts for Joel Stave who came in when Danny O'Brien faltered.
Do the Badgers resort to the bag of tricks they unveiled against Nebraska in the Big Ten title game, the surprises that flummoxed the Cornhuskers and allowed Wisconsin to hang 70 on their highly favored foes?
Does the retooled o-line live up to recent standards, or does it regress to its non-conference play when they got pushed around on a weekly basis?
Do we get the Montee Ball of Big 10 days, the one-time Heisman hopeful who gashed conference foes or will it be the tentative running back who looked not at all well after a controversy-plagued offseason?
Does the defense refuse to give up the big play as it is too often wont to do?
And, most importantly, does the team believe it truly belongs in Pasadena or does it believe the national media story line about Wisconsin being just another BCS bowl pretender unworthy of the spotlight and incapable of victory?
I don't know Barry Alvarez but I'm guessing the Badgers he leads on to the field this afternoon will have a hard time making it through the tunnel, not because of big heads but rather because of the massive chips each guy will be sporting on his padded shoulders. This should be an angry Wisconsin team, slighted by Bielema's hasty retreat and parting shot about the Badgers not being among college football's big boys--Bielema had a chance to change that but consistently screwed the pooch when appearing on the big stage, but I digress. I figure Alvarez pounded--POUNDED--the disrespect aspect deep into the psyche of every guy who'll be wearing cardinal and white. That anger, that desire can--if channeled properly--even an otherwise Stanford-tilted playing field. Knowing you belong is half the battle. Alvarez, I'm sure, has told them the value of the 60 minutes the team will have to prove it.
Will Wisconsin win this afternoon? The numbers, the experts, the records all point toward "no". This could be a task too big even for someone with the talent, the swagger and the ego of one B.Alvarez.
But I won't bet against him.