There was a time not too long ago when a meeting between Oregon and Wisconsin would be a contrast in styles. That really won't be the case when the No. 6 Ducks and No. 8 Badgers clash in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif. The Rose Bowl odds have Wisconsin -3 on New Year's Day.
Rose Bowl odds: Oregon vs. Wisconsin (-3, 51.5 over/under), New Year's Day at 5 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Oregon still has a niftier offense than Wisconsin, but the days of Chip Kelly's innovative, whip-fast “blur” offense are gone, with second-year head coach Mario Cristobal transforming the Ducks into a team that might fit in just fine in the Big Ten. Or the SEC. These guys aren't about finesse and being fancy.
Both teams rely on the pillars of physical, veteran offensive lines and tough defense.
Oregon (11-2) ranks ninth in the country in scoring defense, allowing 15.7 points allowed per game.
Wisconsin (10-3) is 10th, giving up 16.1 points per game.
And with the Badgers balancing their Jonathan Taylor-led ground game with the high-efficiency passing of Jack Coan, it's not easy to distinguish between these teams — as their rankings and the betting odds suggest.
Despite being slightly lower in the CFP rankings, Wisconsin is a 3-point favorite on FanDuel, with a moneyline of Wisconsin -160 and Oregon +135.
Despite first-round talent on offense on both sides, the sportsbooks also are anticipating a low-scoring affair, with the over/under set at 51.5.
Oregon, which is coming off the high of dominating a physical Utah team 37-15 in the Pac-12 championship game, held seven opponents to 10 points of fewer this season. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is a star-in-waiting, posting 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks while earning Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors.
“Oregon does have a lot of speed on defense. Similar maybe to (Ohio) State,” Taylor said. “When you see a hole, you've got to make sure you hit it 100 miles an hour because they've got a lot of speed on defense. So they're able to run sideline to sideline. You've got to make sure you're very decisive.”
Taylor will take aim at the nation's 11th-ranked running defense (106.8 yards per game).
This is likely the junior's final college game — he hasn't officially said he's entering the draft. He needs 91 rushing yards to become the first player to hit the 2,000-yard plateau in back-to-back seasons since Troy Davis did it at Iowa State in 1995 and 1996.
Taylor, who finished with 1,977 rushing yards as a freshman, has 6,080 career yards, including 148 against Ohio State in a loss in this year's Big Ten title game.
“You just got to pursue to the ball and you got to gang tackle,” Oregon defensive back Thomas Graham Jr. said. “He's a running back that is special in so many ways. I think he's like top five in the nation in broken tackles (and) his offensive line blocks (with) very good form.”
Wisconsin has three consensus All-Americans for the first time — Taylor (unanimous), junior center Tyler Biadasz (unanimous) and senior linebacker Zack Baun (19.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks).
Oregon has a unanimous All-American, too, in sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell, who won the Outland Trophy, given to the nation's top interior lineman.
Wisconsin will have to deal with the nation's most experienced offensive line — Oregon's front has a collective 218 career starts — and running back CJ Verdell. He earned MVP honors of the Pac-12 championship game after rushing for 208 yards and three touchdowns.
“We just had that mentality of we were going to go out there and just really show our dominance and really just be the more physical team,” Verdell said.
If the quarterbacks are to decide the game, give the edge to Oregon, at least based on reputation. Senior Justin Herbert retained high draft stock through this season, passing for 3,333 yards while completing 66.7 percent his passes. He has 95 career touchdown passes and 22 interceptions.
Coan (2,541 passing yards this season) isn't as prolific, but he's completing 70.1 percent of his passes, keeping the chains moving and helping the Badgers lead the nation in time of possession (35:26 per game).
Oregon is wary of being lulled to sleep.
“Towards the end of the year, there's been more vertical pass game down the field,” Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos about Wisconsin. “You could see it from the first Ohio State game to the second Ohio State game.”
The Badgers suffered two losses to the Buckeyes but didn't allow any other opponent to score more than 24 points. In another area that is close statistically in this matchup, Wisconsin is ninth nationally against the run (102.4 yards per game).
The teams last met in the 2012 Rose Bowl, with Oregon winning 45-38 in what was the highest-scoring Rose Bowl ever at the time, although this game shouldn't get that high.
“We know we're going to be tested,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “Both lines have to be physical and have to play well.”