INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03: Conor O'Neill #13 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates with the trophy after they won 42-39 against the Michigan State Spartans\ during the Big 10 Conference Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Oregon Ducks have been to the Rose Bowl a few times. They were the first team from the Pacific Coast Conference to make it to Pasadena in 1917, they were the last Pac-10 team to make it in 2010, and they'll be the first Pac-12 team to make it in 2012. But they haven't won since that first appearance, a 14-0 shutout of Penn back in the Woodrow Wilson days. Oregon has lost their last four appearances in the Roses, and their only appearance in the Chip Kelly era two years previous.
The Ducks will face off against their polar opposites, the Wisconsin Badgers, who captured the Big 10 title in what turned out to be a virtual shootout. Wisconsin was just the equal of the Michigan St. Spartans in two matchups, losing the first one on a Hail Mary and winning the second one thanks to a defender running into a flopping punter. It sets up a pretty compelling matchup in Pasadena between two contrasting styles of football and two flawed teams, which always tends to make for great bowl games.
Oregon hasn't fired on all cylinders all year. They lost too much on their offensive line, too much from their front seven, and their primary number one receiver. The Ducks did their best to patch it altogether through the season, but other than their win over Stanford, they were a little bit less productive than before. Still, Oregon's style is still plenty deadly, and they've proven they can beat up and own the Pac-12 that way.
Wisconsin hasn't had quite the same issues. This is a team that returned much of the best talent from last season, and put in a dual threat quarterback in Russell Wilson to make the offense even more explosive. If the Badgers knew how to defend 50 yard heaves in the final seconds, they'd probably be joining LSU in New Orleans. As it is, they'll try and return to Pasadena and recapture all the Roses.
The Badgers will try and use their bruising power to keep the ball away from Kelly's offense, and control the clock along with the pace of the game. The Ducks will try to put up the points and force Wisconsin to play from behind, something that the Badgers probably aren't so comfortable at doing. However, Wisconsin will have plenty of time to prepare for the unconventional foe they face, and usually when you get that time (as LSU, Auburn, and Ohio State have had), you can find a way to contain them. But Oregon will have plenty of time to get ready to use their speed to overwhelm Wisconsin's slower front.
Wisconsin will present just as tough a threat for Oregon as LSU was this year, or Auburn last year, or Ohio State the year before. Their offense is every bit as potent as Oregon's. Their defense leaves something to be desired though, so the Ducks should have their chances to put up the necessary points. Who knows what style will end up triumphing that first Monday of the New Year.
Basically, there are definitely a lot of outcomes we could see from Oregon-Wisconsin 2012. Which is what those bowl operators want from Big 10 vs. Pac-12, right?
95 years. Kelly and Oregon are going to try and make sure it doesn't extend to 96.