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The regular season is behind us, and as such there isn't much to watch in terms of opponents. So for now, we have a brief primer on the Big Ten bowl season. I'm sure the Copper Bowl will be covered in great detail by people who know more about such things.
Rose Bowl: #5 Michigan State vs. #4 Stanford
Michigan State is the outright, undisputed, no takesies-backsies Big Ten Champion. They went undefeated in conference and rolled over Ohio State in the conference championship game. There was much celebration, which would have been a The-Who's-on-Christmas-Morning arm-in-arm singing if it weren’t for this guy informing everyone that couches were flammable. Way to ruin it for everyone, guy.
Stanford, meanwhile, had as many impressive victories as anyone in the country. They took down Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, Washington State, Notre Dame, and Arizona State twice. But they also lost to USC (post Kiffin) and… Utah. Utah finished 2-7 in the PAC 12, with their only other win coming against Colorado. If they don’t lose that game, are they playing Florida State in the title game?
One nice thing for traditionalists is that the Rose Bowl (the most expensive ticket of the season, by the way) will actually feature the Big Ten Champion and the PAC 12 Champion, which has happened only 5 of the previous 12 seasons. And as the playoff system picks up steam, this might be the last of its kind.
When the MSU has the ball:
|Points Per Game||29.8||PPG Against||18.6|
|Yards Per Game||385||YPG Against||339|
|Offensive FEI||38||Defensive FEI||2|
Given the level of competition Stanford has faced, their defense has been downright stifling. They held Oregon to 20 (after shutting them out through three quarters), UCLA to 10, and Arizona State to 14 in the conference title game. Stanford runs a 3-4, but often puts a fourth hand in the dirt in the person of world-destroying Trent Murphy (14 sacks, 21.5 TFL). Murphy will be a real test for Sparty’s tackles, who haven’t been as consistent as the interior guys.
Michigan State, meanwhile, didn’t decide it needed to score offensive points until October, at which point they became decent but not good enough to save their advanced stats for the year. Nevertheless, they made huge strides as the year went on, especially on the offensive line. We have discussed this. It made you anger vomit, remember?
When the Stanford has the ball:
|PPG Against||12.7||Points Per Game||33.2|
|YPG Against||248||Yards Per Game||413|
|Defensive FEI||3||Offensive FEI||16|
Sweet mercy this is going to be violent. Stanford plays the downhilliest of downhill football. Look at the offensive line splits here:
There is very little confusion about what the Cardinal is going to try to do. This is Brady Hoke’s vision for a utopian society, the difference being that Stanford has the horses to run it (Josh Garnett reference. Drink). And you all know how Michigan State’s defense rolls. They’ve shown a little vulnerability (relatively speaking, of course) to power running schemes, but with their ability to leave their corners on an island, this is going to be 8 or 9 men colliding with 8 or 9 men all damn day.
So? It’ll be interesting to see how Michigan State reacts to their new defensive staff given Pat Narduzzi’s TOTALLY IMMINENT departure. Probably about as poor as can be expected, which is to say they will only hit Devin Gardner 8 or 9 times. Stanford 7, Michigan State 6