Wisconsin (11-1 overall, 7-1 Big Ten) returns to the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 2000 and will take part in its third BCS contest, the third-highest total among conference schools behind only Ohio State (nine BCS games) and Michigan (four). The Badgers have played in six Rose Bowl Games, including triumphs in each of their last three trips following the 1993, 1998 and 1999 seasons. Wisconsin will face Mountain West Champion Texas Christian (12-0, 8-0 Mountain West) in the 97th Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, which will be played on Saturday, Jan. 1, at 4:30 p.m. ET in Pasadena, Calif. Head coach Bret Bielema will make his fifth bowl appearance in as many seasons at the helm, including victories in the 2007 Capital One Bowl and 2009 Champs Sports Bowl. Wisconsin will take part in a program-record ninth straight bowl game and has played in 21 overall bowl contests with an 11-10 record. The Big Ten has produced a 30-33 record in the Rose Bowl Game including a mark of 30-32 against the Pac-10.
The third-ranked Horned Frogs, having posted their second consecutive undefeated regular season, will be making their first appearance in the Rose Bowl and second straight trip to a BCS game. It's the first time TCU has played in a bowl game with the two teams having a combined ranking this high since the 1938 Sugar Bowl, when the top-ranked Horned Frogs defeated No. 5 Carnegie Tech, 15-7, to win the national championship. TCU is 5-5-1 when playing a bowl game with both teams ranked. With its trip to the Rose Bowl, TCU will have played in all four current bowl games (Rose, Fiesta, Orange, Sugar) that are part of the BCS.
The Horned Frogs and Badgers will be meeting for the first time since a 14-14 tie at Wisconsin in the 1970 campaign. TCU is facing a Big Ten opponent for the first time since a 48-45 double-overtime victory over Northwestern in the 2004 season opener. Combined with a 48-24 win at Northwestern in 2002, the Horned Frogs are 2-0 versus Big Ten opponents under head coach Gary Patterson. Outside of four games with Northwestern since 1999, TCU has not faced a Big Ten opponent since a 9-7 loss at Minnesota in 1974.
The Badgers lead the Big Ten and are tied for fourth in the country in scoring offense, averaging 43.3 points per game. Wisconsin ranked 12th nationally in rushing (247.3) second in the conference in total yards (450.2), as well as ninth in passing (202.8). Those numbers start from the trenches and anchoring the Badger O-line is Outland Trophy winner and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year Gabe Carimi. The All-American guided a line that helped three different running backs eclipse 800 yards each this season, making the Badgers the only team in the country to accomplish that feat. In addition, QB Scott Tolzien was sacked only 11 times this season. Carimi wasn’t the only Badger to bring in the hardware in December. Tolzien won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the nation's top senior quarterback. He led the nation in completion percentage (74.3) and ranked fourth nationally in quarterback rating (169.8). Tolzien holds team records for career completion percentage (68.5) and career pass efficiency (154.4). So much attention centered around running back John Clay to start the year, but the Badgers’ rushing attack quickly turned into a three-headed monster. Freshman James White rushed for 1029 yards (93.5 per game), followed by Clay with 936 (93.6) and sophomore Montee Ball with 864 (78.5). White was honored as the conference’s Freshman of the Year, as his yardage ranked third among the nation’s freshmen. His 6.95 yards per carry is on pace to break Wisconsin’s single-season record and ranks second in the country among running backs with at least 100 carries. With all of its success on the ground, the Badgers also have four players with at least 1,000 career receiving yards in junior WR Nick Toon (1,475), senior TE Lance Kendricks (1,124), senior WR David Gilreath (1,054) and senior WR Isaac Anderson (1,038).
The TCU defense led the nation in total yards allowed (215.4) for the third straight season and also ranked first in scoring (11.4), passing (126.3), fewest first downs allowed per game (11.3), opponent third-down percentage (21.9) and three-and-outs forced per game (6.4). Every Badger third down should be interesting as UW is eighth in the country and leads the Big Ten in third-down percentage, having converted 50.8 percent of its 130 opportunities. Perhaps what is most intriguing is that TCU finished the regular season rated third in run defense (89.2). Leading the Horned Frogs’ defense is safety Tejay Johnson and linebacker Tank Carder, both of whom are Associated Press All-Americans. Johnson, a first-teamer, ranked third on the squad with 56 tackles and paced TCU with three interceptions while tying for the team lead with three forced fumbles. He also had three pass breakups during the regular season. Carder, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, was fourth on the Horned Frogs with 54 tackles, including 6.5 stops for loss and 2.5 sacks. Carder also tied for second on TCU with five pass breakups while adding an interception and fumble recovery.
The Horned Frog’s offense finished the regular season ranked fourth nationally in scoring (43.3), eighth in rushing (261.2), and ninth in total offense (491.5). Much like Wisconsin, the success of the TCU offense starts in the trenches with Rimington Trophy winner and All-American center Jake Kirkpatrick, who has been setting the blocking scheme on each play this year. TCU has allowed just nine sacks this season, tied for the seventh-lowest total in the nation. That number pleases quarterback Andy Dalton, who recently earned his second–straight MWC Offensive Player of the Year honor. On the year Dalton threw for a career-high 2,638 yards with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions, while carding a passer rating of 167.0 that ranks fifth nationally. He ranked fourth in the MWC and 46th in the FBS in passing (219.8), as well as second in the league and 33rd nationally in total offense (253.8). Sophomore Ed Wesley rated second in the MWC with 88.8 rushing yards per game, followed by Matthew Tucker in seventh at 57.8 and Waymon James in 10th at 48.9. Jeremy Kerley is the top aerial target, having tied for third in the league with 4.2 catches per game and eighth with 43.1 yards each time out. Teammate Josh Boyce was sixth in the conference with 50.2 yards per game.
Defensively, the Badgers ranked third in the Big Ten in passing (191.8) and total yards (323.5), fourth in scoring (20.5), and fifth in rushing (131.7). Lott IMPACT Trophy winner J.J. Watt leads UW from his defensive end position, having ranked third in the country with 21 tackles for loss. A consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection, Watt tied for second in the Big Ten with 7.0 sacks and three forced fumbles, and tied for third with two fumble recoveries. He tied for second on the team with 59 tackles, led the team with 10 quarterback hurries and also blocked three kicks and recorded an interception. So who else is there to help? Junior cornerback Antonio Fenelus was a first-team All-Big Ten pick, while junior free safety Aaron Henry was named to the second team. Fenelus was second in the conference with four interceptions on the season, along with seven pass breakups, while Henry paced the league with three fumble recoveries. Senior linebacker Blake Sorensen, sophomore linebacker Mike Taylor, and senior cornerback Niles Brinkley were all awarded honorable mention accolades by the conference coaches and media.
NOTE: CollegeFootballPoll.com's Congrove Computer Rankings (a.k.a. CCR Top 120) give TCU a 8.55-point advantage. It is 12-0 in forecasting the winner of the Horned Frogs' games this season, 5-6 against the spread. It is 9-3 straight up with Wisconsin, but a woeful 3-8 against the spread. (Such information is tracked for the sole purpose of recording the computer's accuracy in picking games and ranking teams. It is not intended for gambling purposes).