The Voice: Don't forget about the defense

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgFor years, many have said only half-jokingly that those who run the Tournament of Roses are far more interested in the Rose Parade than the game itself.

To be sure, through the years the hundreds of thousands of fans who have made the trip to Southern California have made every effort to take it all in. From Disneyland to Santa Monica Pier to Colorado Boulevard, it is all a part of the Rose Bowl experience. For the players, that includes the always popular Lawry's Beef Bowl, when we find out who can down the most red meat at one sitting.

That is all fine and dandy, but those who know their Rose Bowl history also are aware the game itself often produces high drama. I believe we may very well see more of the same next Monday.

Just take a look at Wisconsin's history in Pasadena. The victories have been one-score games. Last year, the Badgers were a deflected pass away from forcing overtime. Close games are not an annual occurrence, but they have happened enough to add to the magic of a game played in a stadium that has as beautiful a setting as any in college football, if not all of sports.

Outside of the BCS title game, you can state the case the Wisconsin-Oregon matchup is the most intriguing. Yes, the Fiesta Bowl with Stanford and Oklahoma State will be a fun watch, as well, but the Badgers and the Ducks are two teams that score a ton of points in different ways.

Badgers coach Bret Bielema likes to control the ball. His team led the Big Ten in time of possession and scored 44.6 points a game. Ducks boss Chip Kelly apparently could not care less about time of possession. In that statistic, his team was dead last in the FBS. It did OK anyway, averaging 46.2 points per game.

However, it would be a mistake to label this as an "Old School vs. New School" matchup. Without a doubt, Kelly thinks outside the box. The same can be said of Bielema. Kelly has a history of trick plays -- against Stanford, the Ducks ran a fake PAT, with the TIGHT END throwing for a two-point conversion.

Badgers running back Montee Ball is 2-for-2 as a passer, with one of those completions going for a touchdown.

Other than that, Bielema has kept the trickery to a minimum this year, but on his radio show last week, the coach reminded listeners that there is one more game to play. Hmmmm.

I would guess by now that players on both defenses are sick and tired of hearing about how the Rose Bowl scoreboard operator might be the hardest working person in the stadium.  I have to admit I am one of those who figures it will be a fairly high scoring tussle, but I have seen enough football to understand that a couple of defensive plays can make all the difference.

The 1999 Rose Bowl between Wisconsin and UCLA comes to mind. It was an offensive showcase.  Ron Dayne ran wild. The teams combined for 1,035 yards of offense. However, two plays that I always will remember are Jamar Fletcher's interception return for a touchdown and Wendell Bryant's sack that sealed the victory.

The 2012 Rose Bowl has two of the nation's top four offenses. It is fair to expect big plays from Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and company. The same goes for LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas, among others.  Do not forget the special teams. Thomas has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis has one punt return for a score.

But don't forget about the defenses. In what might be a shootout, the defense that can come up with just one more big play could determine who is holding up the trophy.