Remember back in the day when football was not considered a track meet on grass. When teams didn’t try to score in less than one minute every time they touched the ball. When a physical running game and a tenacious defense was the key to being a consistent contender. When quarterbacks relied on their pocket presence, precision passing and ability to manage a game instead of their ability to read whether or not a defensive end squeezes on the zone read.
Those were the good ol’ days. And if everything is cyclical, then there is hope for anyone who appreciates the aforementioned style of football for it to return to popularity. Alabama and Notre Dame play that style and they are playing for the National Championship. I’m just saying.
If you are one of them, one of us, make sure you tune in for the 2013 Rose Bowl when the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Stanford Cardinal. It will be full of overgrown lineman, physical running games and attacking defenses. It will be a thing of beauty. Trust me.
There are is one major sub plot to go along with the game that adds a little something extra to the drama.
Barry Alvarez is making a comeback and coaching the Badgers for this Rose Bowl.
Not because he wanted to. But because he needed to.
Bret Bielema was the head coach of the Badgers that led them to their third straight Rose Bowl. Just one problem, Bielema bolted for the Arkansas head job.
So Alvarez, who serves as the school’s athletic director, stepped in.
As Wisconsin’s former head coach, I would say he is more than qualified. He has three Rose Bowl titles to his name. Bielema couldn’t win one.
It’s not going to be a walk in the park. Stanford is a really good team with a great coach. So Wisconsin will get all it wants against an eighth-ranked Stanford team that is making in its third straight BCS game.
Wisconsin slid in the back door to the Big Ten Championship game against Nebraska after finishing third in their division thanks to the ineligibility of Ohio State and Penn State. Some say their appearance was tainted but they did, however, take care of business once they got there, manhandling the Cornhuskers 70-31.
Three days later, Bielema announced he was leaving for Arkansas. No big deal. Alvarez was more than willing to step in and lead the team through the bowl game preparations. It seems to be a seamless transition, especially with the players on board with the move. "It's the best thing that could happen," linebacker Mike Taylor said. "He's familiar with what we do and he built this program. That's why kids like me come here."
Alvarez, though, has had a few more distractions this time around in preparing for the Rose Bowl. Namely, finding a head coach to replace Bielema, which he did in former Utah State coach Gary Andersen.
Stanford has had no such distraction or uncertainty in regards to its coach this year, with David Shaw. In fact, Shaw signed an extension in December.
Shaw has led the Cardinal to two consecutive BCS bowl games prior to this year. In 2011 they beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl then lost to Oklahoma State in overtime in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl.
The Badgers, along with Oregon, are the only other programs that have garnered three straight BCS berths.
So here we are. Two teams. Comparable success. Different paths to the game. Similar styles of play.
"This is probably going to be the first team for the both of us that's almost like a mirror image," Shaw said. "I think our guys are going to see things they go against in training camp. There's going to be a little bit of a chess match as we go into this thing, but it's going to be exciting to see something familiar on film."
This should be about as close a game as there will be this bowl season. Especially considering the tight games they've both found themselves in. The Badgers last three losses came in overtime, while their other two were by a field goal in regulation.
The margin of victory was four points or fewer in Stanford’s last three out of four victories, and it had to rely on fourth quarter rallies to beat UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game.
If these teams played ten times, my money is that they would split 5-5. They look so much alike (their colors are even the same) it will be like looking in a mirror. Oh, wait, Shaw already said that. This game will be full of overgrown lineman, physical running games and attacking defenses. It will be a thing of beauty. Trust me.
You get the picture.
Who’s ready for some good ol’ fashioned smash-mouthed football?
Where To Watch Online:Wisconsin Badgers vs. Stanford Cardinals