The first of the BCS games will get underway Monday as the Oregon Ducks take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl Game. The game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. kickoff and it will be televised nationally on ESPN. Currently the odds have Oregon favored anywhere from 5 to 6 points depending on the book with the total sitting at 72 points. Both teams had national title hopes at the beginning of the season and managed 11 wins on the year. Playing in the Rose Bowl seems like a nice consolation prize.
Free Analysis: When Oregon is on, they are one of the best teams in the country. Yes, when the Ducks are at full speed and clicking offensively, they dominate lesser opponents, especially the ones that can't make up for their lack of team speed. In four key games during the Chip Kelly era Oregon hasn't met expectations — both prior BCS bowl games and season opening losses to LSU and Boise State. The Ducks are 0-4 straight up and against the spread in those four contests. The question is whether or not Oregon is an elite team. Wisconsin has proven that it can run the ball effectively and win a good number of football games. The Ducks are good up front on both sides of the ball, but Wisconsin is big and meaty on both fronts and probably has an edge on both lines. Oregon is going to have a tough time winning at the line of scrimmage. Wisconsin is fundamentally-sound and tackles well. If they force Oregon to throw the ball, it will be an interesting game. Oregon and Wisconsin are two of 12 teams since the start of 1996 to score at least 80 TDs in a season. And Oregon can score fast as well, totaling 35 touchdowns on drives of 70 or more yards that consumed less than three minutes. LaMichael James is what makes Oregon move. James averaged an FBS-best 149.6 yards on the ground while rushing for 1,646 yards — good for fourth in the country — despite missing two games with a dislocated elbow. He's also just 77 yards shy of 5,000 for his career as a junior. However, I think that quarterback Darron Thomas and running backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas need to be difference-makers for Oregon to win. Darron Thomas threw for 2,493 yards and 30 touchdowns with only six interceptions in 316 attempts, while Barner had 909 yards and 11 TDs rushing. De'Anthony Thomas had 1,011 combined yards with 14 scores and was the team's leading receiver with 42 catches for 571 yards. He also averaged 27.7 yards while scoring twice on kickoff returns. All are very important to the success of the Ducks. Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball is the load carrier for Wisconsin, working behind behind a massive offensive line — 30 touchdown drives took at least eight plays. Ball finished with 1,759 rushing yards and 38 total TDs. The Badgers ranked fourth in the nation in scoring at 44.6 points per game — just behind third-place Oregon at 46.2 — after averaging 41.5 last season. Russell Wilson proved to be big for Wisconsin this season, completing 73 percent of his passes for 2,900 yards and 31 TDs while throwing just four picks during the season. Oregon is making its fifth Rose Bowl appearance, but has not won since beating Pennsylvania in the third edition of the game in 1917. The Badgers, making the trip to Pasadena for the eighth time, won in 1999 and 2000 before falling to TCU last season.
Free Pick: It's a coin-toss type of a game but I'll have to take the Badgers depending on the line being given by the book. I think it's a close game and if I'm getting 5-6 points, those are huge in a game like this. However, Oregon's team speed alone has me second guessing myself every time I try and pick a side. In fact, since I've finished writing the analysis part, I think I have to chance what I was going with. The UNDER at 72 points might seem like more of an option. I don't think Wisconsin will roll up 40+ points on Oregon and likewise I'm not sure the Ducks will be able to gash the Badgers for 40 either. A number like 72 is important but I'm not sure Oregon wins 38-34. However, if it is a higher scoring game, I think Wisconsin getting the points becomes that much more valuable.
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