2011 Rose Bowl - Wisconsin vs. TCU
Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt & TCU WR Jeremy Kerley
Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt & TCU WR Jeremy Kerley
Posted Dec 30, 2010

It might not be the national championship, but it's awfully close. TCU will be looking to make a major statement as it tries to get past the big, bad, Badgers from the Big Ten. Can Wisconsin stay hot after a tremendous November? Are the Horned Frogs for real? Check out the CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2011 Rose Bowl.

2011 Rose Bowl

(11-1) vs. TCU (12-0)

Saturday, January 1st, 4:30, ABC  

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By Pete Fiutak

There but for the grace of a few minor breaks, this could've been your 2011 BCS Championship game. As is, this still might be the most intriguing of all the bowl games, and that includes the national championship.

The storyline from the day the bowl matchups were announced has been TCU getting its shot at the big time in the biggest of all the bowls, but reality has gone bye-bye in the rush to create a David vs. Goliath matchup. The fact is that TCU is one of the big boys and isn't just some upstart in the midst of a dream season. Double-digit win campaigns have become the norm for Gary Patterson and TCU, winning ten games or more in six of the last eight seasons, and this was the second straight year the team has won 12 games and went through the regular season unscathed.

National Rankings
18th Total
22nd Total
4th Scoring
29th Scoring
12th Rushing
30th Rushing
74th Passing
25th Passing
3rd Turnover
Position Rankings
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
4.5 QBs 4.5
5 RBs 4
4 WRs 4
5 O Line 4
4 D Line 4
4 LBs 4.5
3 DBs 4
3 STs 5
4 Coach 5
CFN 2010 2011 CFN Bowl Previews & Confidence Picks
- New Mexico - BYU vs. UTEP
- Human. - Fresno St vs. NIU
- New Orleans - Troy vs. Ohio
- St. Pete - UL vs. So Miss
- Las Vegas - Utah vs. Boise St
- Poinsettia - SDSU vs. Navy
- Hawaii - Tulsa vs. Hawaii
- Little Caesars - Toledo vs. FIU
- Ind. - Air Force vs. GT
- Champs - NC St vs. WVU
- Insight - Iowa vs. Mizz
- Military - Mary. vs. ECU
- Texas - Illinois vs. Baylor
- Alamo - Ok St vs. Arizona
- Armed Forces - SMU vs. Army
- Pinstripe - SU vs. KSU
- Music City - UNC vs. Tenn
- Holiday - Neb vs. Wash
- Meineke - USF vs. Clemson
- Sun - Miami vs. ND
- Liberty - UCF vs. Georgia
- Chick-fil-A - FSU vs. USC
- TicketCity - NW vs. TT
- Outback - PSU vs. Florida
- Capital One - MSU vs. Bama
- Gator - Mich vs. Miss St
- GoDaddy - MU vs. MT
- Cotton - A&M vs. LSU
- Compass - Pitt vs. UK
- Kraft - BC vs. Nevada
- Rose - UW vs. TCU
- Fiesta - OU vs. UConn
- Orange - Stan. vs. VT
- Sugar - Ark. vs. OSU
- BCS Champ. - Aub. vs. Oregon
Lost in all the rhetoric and all the pregame analysis is that the Horned Frogs were within a Texas field goal/one second on the clock from probably playing Alabama for the national title last year. This is a very fast, very big, very sound team that deserved to be more in the discussion for the BCS Championship than it was, considering an argument could be made that the résumé is stronger than Oregon's. But even with all the respect given by people who have followed TCU over the years, the program still needs a win against the Badgers to take a big step forward.

No longer a Cinderella in any way, TCU will be off to the Big East in two years and will officially become a part of the BCS fun. But for now, after all the good things the program has done, and after all the big wins under Patterson – including being the last team to beat Oklahoma in the state of Oklahoma – there's still the same "Yeah, but prove it" factor that Boise State and Utah keep butting their heads against.

It doesn't really matter that the Horned Frogs won their previous four bowl games before dropping a 17-10 slugfest to Boise State in the 2010 Fiesta. It doesn't matter than when put on the national stage, the team annihilated Utah. It doesn't matter that the team is No. 1 in the nation in total defense, No. 1 in scoring defense, No. 1 in pass defense, and No. 9 in total offense; there's still the stigma that a team from a non-BCS conference can't play with a great team from a BCS league, even though that has been disproven time and again.

But Wisconsin might not be just another great team from a BCS league.

No team in America was better in November than Wisconsin, who won its last four games of the regular season by an average score of 59 to 21, and it could've been worse. The Badgers were merciful in the 70-23 win over Northwestern, didn't exactly have its foot on the gas against Purdue, wiped up Michigan with ease, and made the statement of all statements hanging an 83 on Indiana. However, the team is living off of blowout wins over miserable defenses, and one very, very big win over Ohio State.

The Badgers showed just how strong and how for real they really were with a stunningly dominant performance over Ohio State on national TV. The 31-18 win, followed up by a 31-30 win at Iowa, all but erased the loss to Michigan State and set the table for a terrific second half of the year. However, the only non-conference win of note came against Arizona State, and it took a few miraculous special teams plays to get by 20-19, bowl teams Illinois and Penn State weren't on the Big Ten schedule, Dan Persa wasn't playing in the Northwestern game, and yes, there is that loss to Michigan State to still answer for. As good as the Badgers have been, they need this win, or else all the good things they did this season might be forgotten as a mirage. Yeah, putting up 70 points or more three times is impressive, no go and try to bully TCU.

With this bowl appearance, Wisconsin finally can shed the tag of being the best program to not be in a BCS game over the last decade. The 12-1 team of 2006 deserved to go, but that was the year Ohio State and Michigan were dominating the Big Ten world. This is a program that in partly defines the big, tough, burly cliché of the Big Ten, but in reality it has cranked out teams with just as much speed, athleticism, and pro talent as anyone in America. The Badgers weren't supposed to handle the speed of Miami in last year's Champs Sports Bowl, but they were the faster team. They weren't supposed to be able to stay with Arkansas in the 2007 Capital One Bowl, but they literally chased down Darren McFadden and the Hogs in a win. Since 2003, Wisconsin is 2-3 against the SEC in bowl games, and each of the three losses could've gone either way.

On the other side, TCU gets a chance to once and for all prove that it's as big, as tough, and as fast as, arguably, the best BCS team to not play in the national title. This is a chance to shed labels and biases, and along with the move to the Big East, this could be the official kickoff of TCU's move to being finally taken seriously as a true college football powerhouse.

And it's the Rose Bowl.

Because the BCS Championship game is played nine days after New Year's Day, some steam is taken out of the game. There's bowl fatigue once the showcase game comes around, and much of the focus turns to the NFL playoffs. The Rose Bowl is still the Rose Bowl, and now that there are 35 bowl games with bizarre names from companies you've never heard of and will never notice again, it's one of the few games that fans still identify with as being New Year's Day. The Rose Bowl is college football, and this year, it really, really matters.

Players to Watch: How many teams can lose their best player and become even better? Wisconsin finished the regular season with three backs who ran for 800 yards or more and scored 13 times or more. One of the amazing aspects about the late season run was how the offense dominated without Doak Walker finalist John Clay, who rumbled for 929 yards and 13 touchdowns before suffering a knee injury against Purdue. The big, bruising back is fully healthy and ready to pound away again, and while his conditioning might be an issue after only carrying the ball four times since early November, he doesn't need to be a workhorse. His job it to soften the TCU defense up early, and then come on late for one or two bruising drives to take over the game. Thrown into the mix will be James White and Montee Ball, two slippery backs who took over when Clay went down.

White, a freshman, led the team in running with 1,029 yards with 14 scores, tearing off 181 yards against Michigan and with four touchdowns against Austin Peay. He got the luxury of being able to come along slowly, and then he got to show what all the fuss from the coaching staff was about as he became a dangerous back with a nose for getting into the end zone. Meanwhile, Ball, one of the forgotten men in the mix, resurrected his career after seeing little more than mop-up duty throughout the first part of the year. Once he got his chance, he rumbled with four straight 100-yard games and with 17 touchdown runs on the year.

To keep the Badger offense off the field, TCU needs to go on long, sustained marches, and it needs senior QB Andy Dalton to close out his phenomenal career with the best performance of his life. While his 41 wins as a starter make him one of the program's greatest players, it's hard to be considered an all-time great at a school with pictures of Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien hanging around, but a win would cement his legacy. While the 6-3, 215-pounder isn't a high-powered passer and doesn't have a next-level arm, but he has been a perfect leader for the Horned Frog offense. More of an ultra-efficient caretaker than a big-time playmaker, his role is to keep the mistakes to a minimum, which he has done with just 14 picks over the last two years, and to keep the chains moving with his legs and his short to midrange throws. He has only thrown two picks over the last eight games, and he has total command of the attack to make him, ironically, the perfect Wisconsin quarterback. Now he wants to make amends for the worst game of his career, the three pick performance in last year's Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State.

While Dalton might be a perfect fit for the Badgers, Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt comes right out of the TCU handbook. Patterson and the coaching staff are famous for doing a better job than just about anyone of taking a high school player at an offensive position and forming him into a defensive terror. Watt is a former tight end who started out his career at Central Michigan before walking on with the Badgers. Now the 6-6, 285-pound junior is one of the nation's most fearsome all-around defenders with 59 tackles on the year with seven sacks and 21 tackles for loss. Considering the offense put up 70 points on Northwestern, it took something special for a defensive player to be the star of the game, but that was Watt with seven solo stops, three tackles for loss, a sack, two forced fumbles, a blocked kick, and three quarterback hurries. He's a high-motor player who's always moving and has to be accounted for on every play by the TCU blocking scheme.

TCU will win if ... this becomes the Jeremy Kerley show. He came to TCU as a superstar recruit and became an elite returner and an occasional receiver. And then it all came together as he turned into a devastating playmaker both on offense and in the return game, and he needs to do it all against the Badger defense. The Wisconsin corners are beatable, and the punt and kick coverage teams are miserable. The TCU coaches have to do everything possible to get the ball into Kerley's hands on the move, and there's a chance he could become a gamebreaker and a momentum changer on a return or a deep pass.

TCU really is that good, and it's not going to flinch just because the Badgers have a nasty reputation. TCU doesn't have to do anything funky, and it doesn't have to go all Boise State-gimmick play to come up with the win. The defensive front is big enough to handle the Wisconsin ground game, the linebacking corps should be able to keep the big plays to a minimum, and the offensive line is big and beefy enough to do some pounding of its own. Teams don't run on TCU for a reason, and it's not because the Mountain West doesn't have the horses or the ability to do it. Oregon State was held to 73 yards on the ground, Utah gained just 51 yards, and Air Force, while rolling for 184 yards, did nothing else with just 47 yards through the air.

Wisconsin will win if ... it's patient and balanced. TCU isn't Indiana or Northwestern, and Wisconsin isn't going to run out of the tunnel and put 50 on the board. The team can't panic in any way if and when the vaunted ground game isn't cranking out yards in chunks early on. TCU is very big, very athletic, and very good, but it's not tremendously deep. The normal Wisconsin formula has to work. It has to pound away for three quarters and then hope things start to break in the middle of the second half when the best offensive line in America can take over. This is where head coach Bret Bielema keeping his foot on the gas will pay off, because even though Wisconsin has had games well in hand over the last quarter of the season, the team is used to playing for a full sixty minutes.

While the focus of the game will be on the Wisconsin running game and the play of Dalton, Scott Tolzien needs to be great. The Badger senior is fourth in the country in passing efficiency and leads the nation in completion percentage hitting on 74% of his throws. He'll be under more pressure than normal, and he has to be smart enough to eat the ball from time to time or simply throw it away. He's heady, but he's also fearless when it comes to fitting the ball into tight spaces. He can't take chances, he has to keep the chains moving when the ultra-aggressive Horned Frog D is forcing third and long situations, and he has to be the equal of Dalton when it comes to making key plays.

What will happen: Slow and steady will win the race. Forget all that you saw over the last part of Wisconsin's season, and don't be shocked if TCU is the one that comes up with the big plays on both sides of the ball. TCU has the talent, the experience, and the ability to move the ball at will on the Badger defense, but the balance of the UW attack will start to work in the second half with a nice blend of play calls and a great day from Tolzien. The TCU coaching staff is fantastic, but Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst will be better.

CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 26 … TCU 20 ... Line: TCU -2.5
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Pick ATS: Wisconsin  Confidence Score: 89
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 25 out of 35

Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Wisconsin  Pick Confidence - 33
- A case could be made that Wisconsin was the best team in America over the second half of the season, or at least No. 2 next to Auburn. With frightening precision, the offense hung 83 on Indiana and 70 on Northwestern without running it up, but now it has to prove it can produce against the nation's No. 1 defense. TCU, if you think you belonged in the BCS Championship, this is your game to show it.

Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS - Wisconsin  Pick Confidence - 23
- A BCS buster vs. a red-hot team from an AQ conference. Amen. Last year's postseason missed out in a big way when TCU played Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - Wisconsin  Pick Confidence - 30
- TCU has the talent; that's not being questioned. What should be questioned is the ability of the Frogs to be strong between the ears and overcome the nerves that regularly sabotage them in bowl games. Badgers win.

Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - TCU    Pick Confidence - 3
- Okay, TCU – here's your chance. I might be the only writer in the nation that thinks Wisconsin is overrated, having benefited from a ridiculously easy schedule, and even I think the Badgers win this one. Prove it, Horned Frogs.

Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - Wisconsin  Pick Confidence - 25
- Even though they didn't get into the BCS National Championship Game, TCU gets a trip to the Rose Bowl of out of the deal. That's something to be proud of, even if it is bittersweet.

Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Wisconsin  Pick Confidence - 15
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - Wisconsin  Pick Confidence - 30
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - TCU  Pick Confidence - 32
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - TCU  Pick Confidence - 28
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - TCU  Pick Confidence -  4
Rose Bowl History

2009 USC 38, Penn State 24
2008 USC 49, Illinois 17
2007 USC 32, Michigan 18
2006 Texas 41, USC 38
2005 Texas 38, Michigan 37
2004 USC 28, Michigan 14
2003 Oklahoma 34, Washington St 14
2002 Miami 37, Nebraska 14
2001 Washington 34, Purdue 24
2000 Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9
1999 Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31
1998 Michigan 21, Washington St 16
1997 Ohio State 20, Arizona State 17
1996 USC 41, Northwestern 32
1995 Penn State 38, Oregon 20
1994 Wisconsin 21, UCLA 16
1993 Michigan 38, Washington 31
1992 Washington 34, Michigan 14
1991 Washington 46, Iowa 34
1990 USC 17, Michigan 10
1989 Michigan 22, USC 14
1988 Michigan State 20, USC 17
1987 Arizona State 22, Michigan 15
1986 UCLA 45, Iowa 28
1985 USC 20, Ohio State 17
1984 UCLA 45, Illinois 9
1983 UCLA 24, Michigan 14
1982 Washington 28, Iowa 0
1981 Michigan 23, Washington 6
1980 USC 17, Ohio State 16
1979 USC 17, Michigan 10
1978 Washington 27, Michigan 20
1977 USC 14, Michigan 6
1976 UCLA 23, Ohio State 10
1975 USC 18, Ohio State 17
1974 Ohio State 42, USC 21
1973 USC 42, Ohio State 17
1972 Stanford 13, Michigan 12
1971 Stanford 27, Ohio State 17
1970 USC 10, Michigan 3
1969 Ohio State 27, USC 16
1968 USC 14, Indiana 3
1967 Purdue 14, USC 13
1966 UCLA 14, Michigan State 12
1965 Michigan 34, Oregon State 7
1964 Illinois 17, Washington 7
1963 USC 42, Wisconsin 37
1962 Minnesota 21, UCLA 3
1961 Washington 17, Minnesota 7
1960 Washington 44, Wisconsin 8
1959 Iowa 38, California 12
1958 Ohio State 10, Oregon 7
1957 Iowa 35, Oregon State 19
1956 Michigan State 17, UCLA 14
1955 Ohio State 20, USC 7
1954 Michigan State 28, UCLA 20
1953 USC 7, Wisconsin 0
1952 Illinois 40, Stanford 7
1951 Michigan 14, California 6
1950 Ohio State 17, California 14
1949 Northwestern 20, California 14
1948 Michigan 49, USC 0
1947 Illinois 45, UCLA 14
1946 Alabama 34, USC 14
1945 USC 25, Tennessee 0
1944 USC 29, Washington 0
1943 Georgia 9, UCLA 0
1942 Oregon State 20, Duke 16 (at Durham, N.C.)
1941 Stanford 21, Nebraska 13
1940 USC 14, Tennessee 0
1939 USC 7, Duke 3
1938 California 13, Alabama 0
1937 Pittsburgh 21, Washington 0
1936 Stanford 7, SMU 0
1935 Alabama 29, Stanford 13
1934 Columbia 7, Stanford 0
1933 USC 35, Pittsburgh 0
1932 USC 21, Tulane 12
1931 Alabama 24, Washington St 0
1930 USC 47, Pittsburgh 14
1929 Georgia Tech 8, California 7
1928 Stanford 7, Pittsburgh 6
1927 Alabama 7, Stanford 7
1926 Alabama 20, Washington 19
1925 Notre Dame 27, Stanford 10
1924 Navy 14, Washington 14
1923 USC 14, Penn State 3
1922 California 0, Washington & Jefferson 0
1921 California 28, Ohio State 0
1920 Harvard 7, Oregon 6
1919 Great Lakes 17, Mare Island 0
1918 Mare Island 19, Camp Lewis 7
1917 Oregon 14, Pennsylvania 0
1916 Washington State 14, Brown 0
1902 Michigan 49, Stanford 0

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