Wisconsin was once a regular in Pasadena, making three-straight trips from 2010 through 2012, but that was the last time the Badgers have ventured out to California. But now, Paul Chryst will be taking his team to the Rose Bowl for the first time in his coaching career.
The Badgers finished the year with a 10-3 record and won the B1G West. They’ll take on an Oregon team that was 11-2 this season and won a conference title to punch its ticket to Pasadena. It will be the sixth meeting between the two teams all-time, with Wisconsin owning a 3-2 series lead. The Ducks have won the last two games, however (2001, 2011).
Both Wisconsin and Oregon finished the year ranked in the top 10 and were considered to be College Football Playoff contenders at some point in the 2019 season. Now, they’ll square off for a chance to win a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Here are five things to know about Oregon before the two teams square off on New Year’s Day:
It was a bit of a surprise when Justin Herbert decided to return to Oregon after last year, especially as some projected him to be a first- or second-round selection in the NFL Draft. His decision to play one more season in a Ducks uniform didn’t result in a College Football Playoff appearance, but they did claim a Pac-12 title. Herbert has thrown for 3,333 yards and 32 touchdowns with just five interceptions and a completion rate of 66.7 percent. His big arm and accuracy has been trouble for opposing defenses all season.
Top 15 in scoring offense and scoring defense
This isn’t the same Oregon team that was just known for its high-flying offense, it’s pretty good on the defensive side of the football, too. The Ducks rank in the top 15 nationally in scoring offense (35.9 ppg) and scoring defense (15.7 ppg allowed). They are one of just five teams in college football that can say that, along with Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama and Notre Dame.
Surrendering a late touchdown to Auburn in the season opener and a three-point loss to Arizona State on the road cost the Ducks a chance to compete in the College Football Playoff. A win in either of those games would’ve likely been enough to secure a spot in one of the two semifinal games. But it just didn’t work out for the Ducks. They are no stranger to big games, though, clobbering a ranked USC team and taking care of No. 5 Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Excellent front seven
A big reason why Oregon has been so good defensively is because of the play of its front seven. The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in sacks (41) and tackles for loss (94), consistently getting in the backfield all season. Freshman lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux leads the way with nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss this season. Linebackers Troy Dye, Mase Funa and Isaac Slade-Matautia have combined for 24.5 stops for loss. It should be an excellent test for Wisconsin’s offensive line and running back Jonathan Taylor.
Recent Rose Bowl success
Oregon has made two trips to the Rose Bowl this decade, appearing in 2011 and in the College Football Playoff in 2014. The Ducks have won in their last two appearances in Pasadena. In 2011, the Ducks defeated Wisconsin 45-38. In 2014, they registered a 59-20 victory over Florida State in the College Football Playoff semifinal game. The Ducks have a chance to make it three-straight wins in the “Grandaddy of them all.”