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The Voice: Matchup has makings of a classic

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgBowls are great, but the media build-up can get a little old, right? Fans making the trip to Southern California should, and I am sure, will, enjoy everything they can, but no doubt everyone is eager to see the game begin.

After awhile, what else can we say or write? I guess that will not stop some of us from trying.

For weeks, some national observers have labeled this as the bowl season's second most intriguing game, just behind the BCS title matchup. You have the nation's number one defense facing an offense that steamrolled through the last three weeks of the regular season, averaging 67 points in trouncing Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern.

Then again, you have a TCU offense that, like the Badgers in the regular season, averaged 43 points a game, facing a defense that forced 16 turnovers in the final four games.

Both teams have dangerous return men. Wisconsin's David Gilreath turned in the play of the year with his opening kick return for a score against Ohio State, while the Horned Frogs Jeremy Kerley is the two-time Mountain West Conference special teams player of the year.

So many storylines. Some answers to key questions might seem clear. Other questions are more difficult to answer. Some are always in play during bowl games, while others are specific to this game:

1) Are both teams happy to be here? Always a question in bowl games, but it should be no issue in Pasadena. While TCU is unbeaten and would love to be in the BCS title game, I would doubt that there is disappointment in making the school's first-ever Rose Bowl appearance. Spend two seconds with anyone connected with the UW program, and you know how the Badgers feel about spending a week on the West Coast.

Advantage: none.

2) Experience on a big stage?  The Horned Frogs played in last season's Fiesta Bowl, and coach Gary Patterson believes his team learned some lessons from last January's 17-10 loss to Boise State. The Badgers have had big stage games during the regular season, including the circus atmosphere for the Ohio State game, but the Rose Bowl is just a bit different.

Advantage: TCU

3) Playing the "No Respect" Card? TCU is favored, but if I am in their camp, I would play up the "little guy" approach. During the regular season, it sure seemed as though Boise State was getting a lot more love as the darling from the non-automatic qualifying conference, yet it was the Frogs who survived the regular season unbeaten and earned the trip to SoCal. Barry Alvarez made a pretty good living playing the underdog role, but I am not sure Bret Bielema goes there quite as often. Since many are picking TCU to win, I think I would play that card.

Advantage: none.

4) Is the opponent really that different? When I asked safety Aaron Henry about TCU's offense, he said it reminds him of EVERYONE the Badgers have played. In other words, the Horned Frogs do a little bit of everything, but at least Wisconsin has had a taste of various styles of offense this year. TCU can be a finesse offense, but as defensive tackle Patrick Butrym pointed out, they can be very physical as well. In fact, Butrym claims the offensive line is as good as any they have seen all season.

On the other hand, has TCU seen an offense quite like the Badgers? Probably not, and that is what is interesting to me. TCU's defense plays an average of 54 snaps a game. Can Wisconsin play its physical, ball control offense? If so, how will the Horned Frogs defense hold up by the fourth quarter? Make no mistake, the book on TCU's defense is that it is extremely well coached, the players are excellent at shedding blocks, and there is no shortage of speed. That said, maybe the Badgers will present something a bit different from what the Frogs faced in the regular season.

Advantage: Wisconsin

These questions do very little in helping guess who wins the game, and that is why I am so eager for kickoff. As an announcer, I try to keep an open mind for every game (Yes, even Austin Peay). For this Rose Bowl, keeping an open mind is easy.

Through the years, there have been plenty of Rose Bowl classics. Perhaps another one is about to unfold.