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December 31, 2010 ROSE BOWL - TCU vs. Wisconsin

Although Rose Bowl officials would love to have Stanford and Wisconsin, bringing the Horned Frogs in may give the Rose Bowl the best team in the country to face their stiffest test of the season. TCU capped their second-straight undefeated regular season by surviving a scare against San Diego State and will not have the jitters that plagued their first BCS appearance in a loss against Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl. With the exception of the big game at Utah, TCU was prone to giving up some points to the better teams on their schedule, but always had more than enough offense to put the game away. TCU is not disappointed to be in Pasadena, as they are just happy Boise State lost to allow them in the most historic and biggest non-championship bowl game. Wisconsin split the Big Ten championship at 11-1 after losing to co-champion Michigan State and giving Ohio State their only loss in October. Wisconsin was the most dominant team in the country in November, as the running game steamrolled to 50+ point outbursts while the defense continued to lock down teams. Similar to last year's Rose Bowl game, the Big Ten team comes in as an underdog, but that is no reason to think TCU is going to roll easily on a stage where Wisconsin has been before but TCU has not.

The marquee match up of this Rose Bowl will be the TCU defense against the Wisconsin offense. Wisconsin brings an old-school zone blocking run game which is hard to prepare for usually, although a month to prepare will help the Horned Frogs. Watch for TE Lance Kendricks to be a key centerpiece in both the running game as a powerful zone blocker and the passing game as QB Scott Tolzien's top target. Wisconsin relies primarily on their two stud running backs James White and John Clay, each of which had 13 touchdowns and about 1000 yards on the season. Third-stringer Montee Ball also has over 800 rushing yards. Although Tolzien is a good passer and a great game manager, the story of the Wisconsin Badgers success in 2010 was the five returning offensive linemen led by seniors John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi. Wisconsin's offense will also be facing a non-traditional challenge with TCU's 4-2-5 defense under Gary Patterson. Although there really is no weakness to the best defense in college football, the Horned Frogs are perhaps the best up front, where three senior linemen Cory Grant, Kelly Griffin, and Wayne Daniels anchor the rest of the defense. Despite the unique blocking procedures of the Badgers, expect the TCU defensive line to plug most holes and get some pressure on Tolzien. As with other tough teams the Horned Frogs have faced, Wisconsin will no tbe completely shut down by the Horned Frogs. However, the opportunistic defensive backfield will make one or two big plays that could turn the game around or take Wisconsin out of it if things go well for TCU.

While Wisconsin's defense has not put up the gaudy numbers that TCU has, the Badgers are going to pose a big challenge for the Horned Frogs offense. TCU senior QB Andy Dalton will need to look out for DL J.J. Watt, who has made great quarterbacks look silly this season no matter whether they were pocket passers or dual-threats. Wisconsin also has a lot of experience in the defensive backfield and this will challenge QB Andy Dalton to be extremely careful with his throws. Dalton only threw 6 interceptions all season, so this may not be a problem for the Horned Frogs offense. The Horned Frogs will certainly try to establish a power running game, much like Wisconsin generally does. TCU actually rushes for 20 more yards per game than Wisconsin, and Dalton is a threat alongside RB Ed Wesley and RB Matthew Tucker. The Horned Frogs have been incredibly efficient when entering opponent's territory this season, but Wisconsin knows how to shut a team down when they enter the red zone. TCU will have to capitalize on all their chances and avoid the costly turnovers that lost them the game against Boise State a year ago.

Although Bret Bielema has certainly seen some big games in his tenure at Wisconsin, this is the biggest so far and his first BCS bowl. As long as Wisconsin stays true to what they do best and run the ball, this game will stay close the entire way. However, there's nothing like experience in BCS bowls and TCU has it while Wisconsin does not. Despite this being the best team TCU has faced all season, it will not matter as TCU is quite possibly the best team in the nation. Horned Frogs paint the Rose Bowl purple with a 4 point win.

FIESTA BOWL - Connecticut vs. Oklahoma

And then we have the Fiesta Bowl. When a BCS bowl receives the national championship, they also receive last pickings for their normal BCS bowl. In this season, that leaves Phoenix with a disappointed Big XII Champion and frequent BCS flyer against a first-time BCS participant from the Big East. While West Virginia or Pittsburgh might have brought more television viewers, the fact is that the Big East was better than people think and UCONN finished hot, beating the teams they had to in order to get here. Oklahoma is lambasted nearly equally with Ohio State for BCS struggles, but you cannot fault Bob Stoops for winning conference titles so often and making the leap to take on the best teams in the nation. Oklahoma will not be overlooking a Big East champion or a seemingly huge underdog considering they have lost twice on this very field to huge underdogs in West Virginia and Boise State. One team was supposed to be in the mix for the national title and was number one, while the other never sniffed the rankings in only their 10th season at the top level of college football. Oklahoma tries to break a five game BCS bowl losing streak, and there's never been a better time than right now.

When the Huskies have the ball, the Sooners defense will be expecting nothing but runs. Connecticut thrived with RB Jordan Todman, who ran for nearly 1600 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010. Todman has been able to run roughshod on Big East defenses because all-conference linemen Mike Ryan and Zach Hurd as well as Moe Petrus in the center have opened up big holes to run up the middle. Oklahoma's defensive line was generally successful at stuffing the run and forcing teams to go through the air, and good quarterbacks could punish the Sooners for loading up against the run. However, Connecticut does not have what many would consider to be an elite quarterback. Zach Frazer did transfer from Notre Dame but only threw 5 touchdowns and averaged a measly 100 yards per game. For a team not focused on the triple option, these are troubling passing statistics. Frazer will likely eclipse 100 yards in the Fiest Bowl because Oklahoma will take away Todman and likely jump out to an early lead. Then the key will be whether safeties Sam Proctor and Quinton Carter can read Frazer's intentions and make a couple of interceptions to blow this game open.

Oklahoma will also put a lot of pressure on the Huskies when the Sooners have the ball. Although the season did not end up in a BCS Championship, Landry Jones has to be happy with his improvements in his sophomore season (4289 yards and 35 touchdowns). Nearly every skill position player is a threat to receive passes from Jones, including RB DeMarco Murray out of the backfield. Murray will be healthy for this game and will look to go past 1200 and maybe even 1300 yards on the season in this game. Look for WR Ryan Broylers and WR DeJuan Miller to stretch the Huskies out and open up a lot of running room for Murray as the game goes on. UCONN did have 8 starters return on defense this season and this is the unit that carried them to four straight wins and the BCS berth. Thus, senior linebackers Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus are going to try and continue their success in reading plays and stopping the opposing offense. If Connecticut is to stay in this game, those linebackers will need to get pressure on Jones at opportune times and also perhaps cause a couple of turnovers to keep confidence levels high.

Connecticut cannot afford to fall behind by more than two touchdowns considering the weakness of their passing game. However, that will happen in the first quarter as Oklahoma will be looking to put their BCS bowl woes behind them in a big way. This game will snowball in the third quarter and Oklahoma will end up with their first BCS win since 2003. Connecticut keeps it respectable in the second half, but Oklahoma wins by 24 regardless.

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