The 100th edition of the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio features Michigan State’s first appearance in the game in 26 years.
The Spartans have already set a school record for victories but the achievement will feel even better if the fourth Rose Bowl win in program history is the topper. Stanford, playing in a BCS bowl for the fourth straight season and making its 14th Rose Bowl appearance, dispatched of Wisconsin in last year’s contest in Pasadena.
The defenses are expected to set the tone as Michigan State leads the nation in total defense (247.8) and Stanford ranks 14th (339). The Spartans also lead the nation in rushing defense (80.8) and the Cardinal excel at pounding standout running back Tyler Gaffney (1.618 yards, 20 touchdowns) between the tackles. Stanford ranks third at stopping the run (91.2) and is tied for the national lead with 40 sacks.
In a contest featuring hard-nosed play in the trenches, some top-notch athletes like Stanford receiver/returner Ty Montgomery and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard could shine. Montgomery caught 58 passes for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns and averaged 31.2 yards and scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns. Dennard (four interceptions) is the consensus top defensive back in the nation after winning the Thorpe Award.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Stanford -4.5
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (12-1, 9-0 Big Ten): The Spartans allow 12.7 points per game – fourth-best nationally – and Dennard has plenty of company when it comes to standout defenders. Safety Kurtis Drummond also had four interceptions, linebacker Denicos Allen (15.5) and end Shilique Calhoun (14) combined for 29.5 tackles for loss but defensive leader Max Bullough (9.5 stops for loss as the Big Ten’s top middle linebacker) will miss the contest after being suspended. Michigan State scores 29.8 points per game with running back Jeremy Langford (1,338 yards, 17 touchdowns) leading the way and quarterback Connor Cook (2,423 yards) throwing 20 touchdowns against just five interceptions.
ABOUT STANFORD (11-2, 8-2 Pac-12): The Cardinal typically control games with their defensive front seven, led by outside linebacker Trent Murphy (nation-leading 14 sacks) and inside linebacker Shayne Skov (100 tackles, 10 for losses). Stanford also boasts strong performers in the secondary in safeties Ed Reynolds (77 tackles) and Jordan Richards (three interceptions). While Gaffney’s work as a bell-cow – he’s carried 306 times – fuels the offense, quarterback Kevin Hogan (2,487 yards) has thrown for 20 touchdowns against nine interceptions for an attack producing 33.2 points per game.