Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Jan. 1, 2014
No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford
An early look at the matchup: Besides the National Championship game, the Rose Bowl showdown between the Spartans and the Cardinal is arguably the most intriguing. Coming off impressive efforts on both sides of the ball in their respective conference title game wins, these teams are hot, and they both play a similar, extremely physical brand of football. Both teams showcase a style of football that is fading away in recent times.
The Spartans and the Cardinal both feature run-first offenses with bruising, downhill running backs. With 1,618 yards rushing yards (seventh in the country) and 20 rushing touchdowns (fifth), Stanford’s 6-foot-1, 221-pound Tyler Gaffney is one of the toughest backs in the country. And though he only averages just over 21 passing attempts per game, quarterback Kevin Hogan is a steady game manager who can make all the throws. Ty Montgomery, Hogan’s favorite target, has hauled in 58 catches for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Spartans have a bruising running back of their own in Jeremy Langford who garnered 1,338 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Connor Cook has steadily progressed as the year went on and turned in one of his performances, completing 24-of-40 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball you’ll find two top 15 defenses that specialize in the same thing: stopping the run. Michigan State allows just 80.8 rushing yards per game, tops in the country. Stanford allows 91.2 rushing yards per game, third best. The game could very well come down to the offense that can establish enough of rushing attack to then capitalize off the play-action pass.
We should be in for a treat.
What we like about this game: Hard-nosed running attack and defense – lots of it. With the hurry-up offense with its shotgun formations and read-options becoming increasingly popular in the world of college football, this game is a throwback. Langford and Gaffney are studs who have somehow seemingly remained under the radar on a national level. It should be a treat to see what they can do against these top three rush defenses.
Something you might not have known: This is the sixth ever matchup between Stanford and Michigan State and the second bowl game between the two squads. The Cardinal destroyed the Spartans 38-0 in the 1996 Sun Bowl when both teams finished with 6-5 regular season records. Beyond that, the two teams met four other times. Michigan State won the first three contests in 1955, 1956 and 1961. Stanford won in 1962 and that 1996 Sun Bowl.
- - -