For good reason, the Rose Bowl is always one of college football’s most highly anticipated games of the season, but this year there is an added element swirling in the batch that’s got fans around the country buzzing at fever pitch. As if experiencing the electric atmosphere created by over 94,000 fans cheering inside Rose Bowl Stadium as two of the nation’s elite programs battle it out live wasn’t enough, the Wisconsin Badgers’ felicitous decision to tap Athletic Director and former Wisconsin Head Coach Barry Alvarez to man the helm and lead them against the Stanford Cardinal on New Year’s Day is proving to be too irresistible and captivating for fans to hold in their excitement.
Just three days after winning the Big Ten championship and securing Wisconsin’s ninth overall trip to Pasadena, former Head Coach Bret Bielema decided to jump ship for the SEC and accept the head coaching position with the Arkansas Razorbacks. But instead of panicking or feeling sorry for themselves, Badgers’ captain Mike Taylor and senior quarterback Curt Phillips thought up a solution that may turn the tides of the game in their favor. They turned to Alvarez, who's more than familiar with the players and the nuances of the system, having handpicked Bielema as his successor. And when they approached the 66-year-old grandfather to return for one last game in the Granddaddy of Them All, he knew he was the man for the job. And his 118-73-4 record in 16 seasons at as head coach surely helped his confidence.
This will be the Badgers’ third consecutive attempt to bring home the roses, having lost their previous two matchups against TCU and Oregon in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Who better to reverse the trend than the man who led them to a 3-0 Rose Bowl record during his tenure? With the move, Wisconsin (8-5) is once again under the guidance of the man who built the program into a regional powerhouse, and his established return means that the players can focus without all of the distractions of an ongoing national head coaching search. For now, it’s just about the game, and this one will surely take all of Coach Alvarez’s knowledge and wisdom, as the No. 8 Stanford (11-2) Cardinal are waiting in the shadows, ready dismiss all of the coaching talk, and prepared for revenge.
The last time the Stanford Cardinal played in the Rose Bowl was in 2000, and they fell by a score of 17-9 to none other than Coach Alvarez and the Wisconsin Badgers. Back then, the Badgers were spearheaded by Heisman Trophy-winning RB Ron Dayne, who rushed for 200 yards. This time around things look to be dominated by the ground game once again, as both teams feature two of the finest backs in the nation in Wisconsin’s Montee Ball and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor. In his career, Ball has run wild, setting the FBS record for career rushing touchdowns with 79 and amassing over 5,000 yards in the process, while Taylor has carved a name for himself by racking up over 1,000 yards in each of his last three seasons. It will also mark the final collegiate game for both players, so they’ll surely be looking to leave it all on the field.
The game will mark Stanford's 13th appearance in the Rose Bowl (5-6-1), while the Badger will play in their 9th. As far as head to head matchups, the Badgers lead Stanford 4-0-1 overall, but Cardinal Head Coach Kevin Hogan has his squad competing in top gear and ranked in the top ten in the country, so Coach Alvarez and the unranked Badgers certainly have their work cut out for them. Either way, this one is surely one you’ll want to see live. Kickoff for the 99th annual Rose Bowl is set for 5 p.m. ET on January 1st at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, so get your 2013 Rose Bowl tickets now to see all the action live.