New year’s day is upon us and now it's time to get to the big Bowl games the clash between the winner of the PAC-12 and Big-10 conferences. Both the Wisconsin Badgers and Stanford Cardinals finished out the regular season on a positive note.

But for the Badgers the coach that led them there will be absent. Yes folks it’s the Granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio!

That’s right Wisconsin athletic director and former coach Barry Alvarez returns to coach the Badgers as Bret Bielema left earlier this month to take the Arkansas job. What impact on that on the team remains in question, but only be answered as they take the field Tuesday against the Cardinals.

In this game for Wisconsin the Badgers need to keep their eyes on the Stanford offense especially on the ground as they can dominate when not looking. Quarterback Kevin Hogan has a remarkable 72.9% completion rate through the four games he’s started. Even more striking is the fact that he racked up those numbers facing Oregon, Oregon State, and UCLA (twice). Hogan’s main targets are his two tight ends, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo; Ertz leads the team in both catches (66) and receiving yards (837).

But for the Cardinals main strength is their power running game, and Taylor is the main man on the ground. Stanford has the luxury of having been very selective in passing plays certainly due to their outstanding running back Stepfan Taylor. Who averages nearly 111 yards per game and is useful in the short passing game as well.

However the Badger’s run defense is  ranked second in the Big Ten and 12th in the country for the 2012 regular season, but even the best defenses were not able to stop Taylor this season.

Looking at the  Badgers defense they do have three very talented linebackers, most notably Chris Borland. And one good benefactor is Stanford doesn’t have a true running threat behind Taylor. For the Cardinals their  second-leading rusher this is  their quarterback Hogan, who’s very  mobile at his position and while being able to pass with decent accuracy either in the pocket or rolling out. Barry Alverez may need to worry about stopping the passing game more than stopping the run.

But he has his own strong rushing game on offense in fact Wisconsin has one of the best ground games in the country, with three players rushing for over 500 yards on the season. Montee Ball NFL prospect is the main threat, with a ridiculous 1,730 yards and 21 TDs

The battle will certainly be captivated as the strength of the Cardinal’s running game challenges the strength of Badger’s  rush defense. With talent players on both teams its really hard to decide which wing will fly away with a win but it's going to be a solid match up that’s for sure.

Zach Ertz TE,

Zach Ertz played a valuable and need to step right into the starting role for the Cardinals since Colby Fleener left for the NFL. He excelled this season and is Stanford’s leading receiver.  Ertz totaled 66 receptions for 837 yards and six touchdowns.

Ertz has learned his blocking skills well and improved along the way this season. His big games this season came against the Washington Huskies and the California Bears. But in reality what held back Ertz was the lack of reliable quarterback play.

Against Oregon had 11 receptions for 106 yards including a touchdown catch that forced overtime.

He is projected as an early second rounder.

Chase Thomas OLB,

Thomas at the beginning of the year was considered to be a late rounder. But a season can turn things around of the value of a stock of a player.

Thomas a redshirt senior made an impression this season. He had 71 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, one interception and 7.5 sacks for Stanford this year.

Thomas has excellent flexibility to play inside linebacker as well,  he has the talent to blitz off the edge and combine his good physical abilities with football smarts. Thomas has a flair that cause the opponent's offense to turn the ball over.

In the important games this season during crucial times like his sack against USC sealed the victory, and with the combined to the last games with UCLA he had four sacks

He is projected as a late second rounder in the draft.

Stepfan Taylor RB

Taylor could in fact be one of the most underrated players in college football this past season. He was the Cardinals workhorse as a multi-dimensional back grabbing not not carries on the running game but being a lethal weapon in the passing game as well. Against USC he had 200 combined yards and two touchdowns. Followed that up with big games against UCLA and Oregon.

Coming into the Rose Bowl, Taylor is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, with a total 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He also has 38 receptions for 370 receiving yards with two scores as well.

What makes him even more valuable is his third down ability with his great block and receiving skills. Giving the running back talents that provide him with a good mix of speed and strength. He is projected to sometime in the third round.

Shayne Skov ILB

Skov could the next best linebacker in the NFL, but he’s trying to stay back a year due his injury that occurred in 2011. But according to SI's Tony Pauline, many NFL scouts believe a second-round selection of Stanford senior ILB Shayne Skov "could be better value" than Notre Dame senior ILB Manti Te'o in the top-12 picks. Skov finally seems back to full health and put on an excellent performance against Oregon. The senior has seven tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks, on the season. Expect Skov to be a second or early third day selection.

Other NFL prospects that may get chosen in the later rounds or signed by a team in free agency

Drew Terrell WR, Sam Schwartzstein C, Terrance Stephens DT


Monte Ball, RB

Ball holds the record of 79 touchdowns in college career he received against Penn State this season.  Walking into the Rose Bowl, he's averaged 5.2 yards per carry on his way to 1,730 yards and 21 touchdowns. Ball is known to impress with outstanding vision and later moves making him a very dangerous running back in the open field.

His negative however is that he tends to become fumble prone in crucial situations.

At this time he considered as a late second or earlier third rounder. Ball is polished and we all get to see him one more time after the Rose Bowl since he will be attending the Senior Bowl.

Rick Wagner, OT

Wagner was invited to the Senior Bowl recently and will move to play right tackle to see if can be strong from the blind side in the NFL.  Earlier in the year he was out due to a knee injury but has reported to fully recover.

He does excellent in pass protection, but struggles a bit in the ground game because he doesn’t get a consistent push.  Wagner is expected to get selected in the second or third round.


Other NFL prospects that may get chosen in the later rounds or signed by a team in free agency

Devin Smith CB, Mike Taylor OLB, Marcus Cromarti CB, Shelton Johnson SS