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Dr. Saturday

Rose Bowl: Will the matchup between Michigan State and Stanford live up to its billing?

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday

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Passing is the key to the game. Seriously. (Getty Images)

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio
Stanford vs. Michigan State
Pasadena, Ca.
Jan. 1, 2013

How surprising would it be if this game turned out to be a 45-42 shootout with Connor Cook and Kevin Hogan combining for over 700 passing yards?

The word "incredibly" may not do it justice. Michigan State is 89th in average passing yardage and Stanford is 90th. Both average just over 200 yards per game, and both quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards just once. Stanford's Hogan did it against Cal and Michigan State's Cook did it against Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game.

That's why everyone expects a game with 40+ rushing attempts from either team, and why not? Stanford's Tyler Gaffney and Michigan State's Jeremy Langford are exceptional running backs who have combined for 37 touchdowns and excel in their respective offensive systems. But don't look for one of the running backs to be the difference maker on Wednesday. It'll be one of the quarterbacks.

That can go either way too. One of the main reasons that Michigan State beat Ohio State was because of how well Cook was able to go down the field against a Buckeye defense that has struggled of late. But when the Spartans lost at Notre Dame, Cook was just 16-32 for 135 yards.

Hogan's worst game was in Stanford's loss to USC when he threw two interceptions and was 14-25 for 125 yards. We know both teams are going to run the football and alternate between success and being stuffed. The key will be whichever defense takes away the pass the best. A successful run game has to have the threat of the pass, and if that threat disappears, the run game could too.

MASCOT FIGHT

A tree or a heavily muscled Spartan? We'll take the guy that can wield the axe with the caveat that when the tree gets chopped it doesn't fall on him. Because if that happened, it's a draw, right?

PREDICTIONS

Graham: Stanford 17, Michigan State 13. Since both of these defenses are so good, this might be the lowest scoring game of the bowl season. I like Stanford here because it does have a better, more consistent offense, but I do think the game will be close.

Nick: Stanford 13, Michigan State 10. It will be fascinating to see how Stanford attacks the Michigan State defense without Max Bullough. Does it run straight up the center's rear end or off the tackles to stretch the Spartan defense? Hogan will make enough plays to get Stanford the win, and this game could clock in at under three hours.

Sam: Stanford 20, Michigan State 17. I have higher expectations for this game than any other game in the bowl slate. Gaffney and Langford, two bruising running backs, going against two stern defenses will be fantastic to watch. The Spartans will really miss linebacker Max Bullough and the more I think about it, the more that will help Stanford grind out a victory with Gaffney on the ground.

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