Friday, December 27, 2013

Rose Bowl Preview: Stanford (11-2) vs Michigan State (12-1)

Well I have procrastinated long enough, and on this side of Christmas I suppose I have to get down to writing some BCS previews. This matchup has me intrigued and excited, so I was happy to start with it. These are two physical, defensive teams, perhaps the most worthy of that description in the country. This should be an old school football game, fun to watch and less fun for the quarterbacks on either side. If I were older and had watched an immense amount of football over the last sixty or so years, I would wax poetic here for several paragraphs, yearning for the good old days, the way the game was meant to be played, the hard hitting, hard nosed style which is less prevalent today… so on and so forth. I will, however, spare you all the spiel, because we've all heard it and no one likes listening to it. Suffice it to say that, without being nostalgic or annoyingly preferential for the days of yore, this will be a good game.

        12-1 Michigan St, of course, is coming off a remarkable victory. The stakes could not have been higher for the Buckeyes in the Big 10 title game, but the simple fact of the matter was the Spartans showed up. A decisive 34-24 win over the national championship hopefuls showed everyone that this team can beat anyone, the best team in the country even. Stanford is of the same elite ilk, so another massive effort is called for on Michigan St.'s part. It is certainly nice, however, to know it's possible. This will be a defensive battle to be sure, and perhaps the Spartans get the edge on that side of the football. Some are saying this is the best defense in the country, and although I will hold off before crowning them as such, they certainly are in the conversation. Their 12.4 points allowed this season is a testament to one of the stingiest defenses, in and out of the red zone, we've seen in a long time. This is simply a good fundamentally well coached football team. Their one loss this season was a quirky 17-13 game in Southbend, and they have played their best football all season against their best opponents. For this reason, they'll play well against Stanford, for sure. It must be noted however, that senior captain and starting inside linebacker Max Bullough is suspended for the Rose Bowl for a violation of team rules. He is undoubtedly the most important player on the team, and although without him, the defense remains formidable, his presence will be missed of course. Not only is Bullough the single most important defensive piece for the Spartans, but he is also a vocal leader, well known and well liked. As a third generation Spartan, the program could not be more important to him. It is a crying shame that he will miss such a game, but we will have to wait and see what transgression merited such a punishment.

         11-2 Stanford, meanwhile, has no such pressing issues to worry about. Yet, throughout the season, they have had more weaker moments than the Spartans, and so there must be some nagging doubts I imagine about the potential for a poorly timed choke (ahem, Utah). The Cardinal has had some remarkable games this season, in particular, a statement 38-14 win over 11 ranked Arizona St. to win the Pac 12, and of course a 26-20 win over then 2 ranked Oregon. In such games, Stanford has nearly looked unbeatable. We know, however, that they can be beat, even by a bad team. You see the dilemma. Their 18.6 points against are nothing to sneeze at, however, making this a promising, if low scoring, matchup.

        In the end I can't count on the Spartan squad without their most important player. This will be a good game, fun to watch and fun to speculate on, and I see Stanford 20-Michigan St. 12.

1 comment:

  1. 31-30 in favor of the sparts on an earth shattering late field goal by true freshman and future All- American Michael Geiger [counter].