CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Stanford-Wisconsin not exactly a matchup made in Rose Bowl heaven

Q: Well, you didn't go very far.

Ertz: Yeah, exactly.

This year's Rose Bowl, No. 99, seems oddly numbered off. Next year's 100th edition promises to be a double-host jubilee capped by bells, whistles, flyovers and, best of all, the last Bowl Championship Series title game ever played!

So why does Stanford versus Wisconsin even matter?

The Big Ten left its 12-0 team, Ohio State, at home on probation. And although Stanford may be marginally better than Oregon, it certainly is not more entertaining.

The playing style of the schools could be described as neo-Neanderthal, and there's not a chance in the world Stanford Coach David Shaw will channel Woody Hayes and punch a photographer.

This could be the quickest Rose Bowl game since before TV timeouts, a Greco-Roman wrestling interlock of handoffs and clock management.

"We're going to run the ball," Shaw warned television viewers this week. "We're going to run the ball between the tackles. That's just what we do. . . . So that's what you're going to see from us, which is great, because that's what you're going to see from Wisconsin also."

Wisconsin's campaign manager confirmed it is running the same 30-second commercial with an addendum from its interim coach: "My name is Barry Alvarez, and I approved this message."

One reason Alvarez could seamlessly roll out of retirement to coach this game, replacing the Hog-bound Bret Bielema, is the game might not be that much different from Wisconsin's win over Stanford in the 2000 Rose Bowl.

"You know I think they play similar," Alvarez said, recalling his third Rose Bowl win. "They ran the ball well the last time around; they could throw it, and they were balanced. I think they're very similar teams."

Wisconsin has run the ball 590 times this season compared with only 274 passing attempts. Stanford has rushed it 514 times compared with 379 passes.

"I happen to think that's how you play football," Alvarez said.

To contrast, Washington State ran 252 times this year and attempted 624 passes.

This Rose Bowl does not set up as well as some others, but the participants ask only that you give it a chance.

Wisconsin's 8-5 record is lousy, but dig deeper and you'll find the Badgers are nine points from being undefeated.

Wisconsin lost two games in regulation by three points and three games in overtime.

"Underappreciated," said Montee Ball, the team's star back. "That's exactly what I tell a lot of people, that our record doesn't show how good we are."

Wisconsin may be disenchanted after three straight trips to Disneyland, but few Rose Bowl teams have had as much to prove. The Badgers don't want to be branded as three-straight losers following defeats to Texas Christian and Oregon in 2011 and '12.

"A lot of players don't have the big eyes anymore because we've been here," Ball said. "It's our third time. Everyone is used to the atmosphere, the fast life of L.A. and Pasadena."

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